The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day, 70 Years

In September I'll celebrate (very quietly, I hope) my 70th birthday. This is an undeniable fact that I seem to have trouble accepting. Turning 30 didn't bother me, neither did 40 or 50 or 60. There's something about 70, though -- three score and ten, the natural allotment of years, after which we have no guarantee -- that has made me pause and realize this life is definitely coming to an end. It's not that I worry about aging or fear death, because I don't. Both aging and death are natural elements of life itself. I accept them. No, I'm simply surprised that my life has reached this point so quickly. But time doesn't pause; it moves right along.

This came to mind today as I watched some of the news coverage about the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. For the first time I realized that perhaps a majority of Americans know little, if anything, about the events we're celebrating. When I was a child, World War II was not the distant memory it is today. After all, I was born during the war. And most of the men I knew -- neighbors, local businessmen, relatives, scout leaders, and, yes, my father -- had served during the war and many told me of their experiences which ran the gamut from the mundane to the heroic. They were normal men, just average American guys, who were called into service, responded willingly, did their duty and much more, and then returned to their civilian lives thankful they had survived the war. The survivors didn't consider themselves heroes; that was an honor they bestowed on those who never returned. If anything they experienced a sense of guilt that they had survived while so many good men had died.

The point or all this? I was too young to recall the war years, and yet World War II was a definite presence during my childhood. As a child I listened to the adult conversations around me, and much of what I heard was about the war. It was what people talked about, and it was fascinating. And then, when I was only seven, my family spent a year in Germany and I saw first-hand the destruction that country had brought on itself. The scars left by the bombing were still visible in many of the cities, and when I walked through the gate at Dachau I could sense the evil that spawned the horrors of that camp.
Berlin 1945: Photo taken by my father

The Gate at Dachau
The men who landed on those Normandy beaches on D-Day began the long process that would take the ground war to Germany itself and ultimately bring an end to all the destruction, all the horror. Far too many of them, especially the young Americans who landed on Omaha and Utah Beaches, sacrificed their lives that day. But their deaths were not in vain because enough of their buddies made it across that beach and many other beaches across the globe, and eventually drove our enemies to surrender.
D-Day: Seawall at Utah Beach

Although I was born three months after D-Day, it remains for me a day to remember. Teach your children and grandchildren about that sad and glorious day so they, too, will always remember.

Pray daily for those who put their lives on the line in defense of our country, in defense of freedom, in defense of you. And pray for peace.

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