Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald G. Rios: Monthly Column D-Day June 6, 2024

Post Date:05/31/2024

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy by Allied Forces, better known as D-Day. Often regarded as the beginning of the end of World War II, D-Day was pivotal in the liberation of France and Europe.

On June 6, 1944, under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Allies launched Operation Overlord, a massive invasion of the beaches of Normandy, France. This operation, the largest naval, air, and land assault in history, aimed to liberate France from German occupation and turn the tide of the war. According to the National Archives, more than 160,000 American, British, and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of Normandy's beaches in a pivotal effort to liberate Europe.

The D-Day invasion targeted the five beaches in Normandy, which were given the code names: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Omaha Beach proved to be the most challenging to secure due to its steep cliffs and heavy German fortifications, resulting in the highest casualties. Approximately 24,000 U.S. troops were killed, wounded, or missing at Omaha Beach.

The night before the invasion, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation via radio, asking Americans to join him in a prayer for Allied forces. The prayer, which Roosevelt himself wrote, was known as “Let Our Hearts be Stout.” A particularly significant part of the prayer reads:

They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end the conquest. They fight to liberate.
They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home - fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas - whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them - help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

On June 6, we honor the soldiers from around the world who displayed immense courage, fighting to secure freedom despite knowing they might not survive. These heroes, now known as the “Greatest Generation” for their bravery, should never be forgotten. We should also pay tribute to the people of Normandy, who endured significant loss of life during this operation.

To honor these soldiers on this day, we can fly the flag, educate ourselves about the significance of D-Day, visit memorials, and support veterans from all wars ― not just those who fought on D-Day.

One such memorial is the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, which spans over 50 acres and overlooks the town. Bedford was chosen because it suffered a profound loss on D-Day: Nineteen men from Bedford, all members of Company A, 29th Infantry Division, lost their lives that day, including three sets of brothers.

It is our responsibility as Americans to never forget the sacrifices of those who fought on D-Day ― and all those who have served in our military. We must teach our youth about the history of our nation, so that they too appreciate the freedoms so many fought to preserve.


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