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There will never be another generation quite like the Greatest Generation, but there are ways all of our current generations can be better.
We can start by learning the lessons that were taught on June 6, 1944, when Allied forces landed on the shores of Normandy, France to rescue Europe from the grip of the devil.
As world marks 75th anniversary of D-Day invasion, the fallen at Normandy American Cemetery are remembered.
The soldiers who died on D-Day, and those who survived, were answering a greater call than that for immediate glory. They were not putting their lives on the line for the sake of a better economy, a better paycheck or a nicer home or car.
They understood there were values much greater and more intrinsic at stake. They were fighting for freedom, the right to live and the right for future generations to have opportunities that many of them – products of a previous world war and a devastating Great Depression – did not.
This year’s 75th anniversary of D-Day is especially poignant as the number of survivors is reduced each day. By the 80th anniversary in 2024, the youngest D-Day survivor would be 98. Soon after that, they will all be gone.
Those who remain admit concern they will be forgotten. Sadly, they are correct. History’s great battles and greater causes were all followed by society’s promise they would never be forgotten, only to be consigned to the pages of history, limited to documentaries, on target-audience cable channels or movies that take liberty with the truth, and removed from ordinary public awareness and understanding.
But the soldiers of D-Day were fighting for intangible causes, and therein came their strength. They were not fighting for a specific demographic group, geographic region or segment of America. They were not defending the values of the Democratic or Republican Party or any single ideology.
They believed that America lived under one umbrella, one where jostling and disagreement naturally occurred underneath, but where our ultimate causes and goals were common. The heroes of D-Day were not perfect; within their ranks was prejudice, self-interest and bias because these soldiers were human, and those are traits of the human race.
Yet they were able to put it aside for one glorious battle of an epic war. They saw the greater good and the bigger picture. In today’s fractured America, dominated by petty insults and self-interest from all segments and political divisions, we have lost sight of the power in that.
Yet that is the power of America, and it has carried us through many crises and tragedies. The optimists believe it will do so again, but those optimists seem few and far between and as their voices are drowned out by the bitterness, anger, resentment and snark from all directions.
Instead of being guided by that noise, we should listen to the echoes of D-Day and those who served – many knowing it could be their final day on Earth. They understood that all the infighting must cease at some point for the cause of a greater good, and that this could be done even in a nation of diversity, disagreement and ethnic, religious, geographic and political divisions.
That was the soul of their greatness. It can still be the soul of ours. We don’t have to be the Greatest Generations to do it, we must only be willing to follow their example and not keep settling for what we are settling for now, which is far less than the best we can be.