Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day. I don't know about you, but over the last few years, this anniversary gets increasingly sad. Because each year, there are fewer and fewer men alive who were actually in Normandy on June 6, 1944. And those who are still with us are too frail to make the pilgrimage to France for the anniversary ceremonies like they used to.
I don't want to lose them, because once the World War II veterans are all gone, we'll lose that tether to a time when the nation figured out how to be a better version of itself.
Not that they were saints and did everything right. But in many respects they were better. Because they went, and they toughed it out, and they accomplished an incredibly daunting mission, with sickening hardship, heartbreak and terror along the way. And we need to say thank you today.
Near the end of Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller, the character played by Tom Hanks, lays dying and he gives one last instruction to Private Ryan, the young man that he and his unit have sacrificed their lives to rescue in Normandy.
He says, "Earn it."
In other words, don't waste the sacrifices that were made so that your life could be saved. Live it well.
I wonder, collectively as a nation, can we say we've earned the sacrifices that were made by Americans on June 6, 1944?
Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Personal responsibility. These used to mean a lot more.
Today, the name of the game in politics, media and really all walks of life when it comes to the choices we make is to deflect, defend, shout down, attack. Who in leadership today is writing a just-in-case note? Let me explain.
Before 5:00 AM on June 5, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower consulted with the Allied commanders one last time before giving the go-ahead to launch the invasion. The weather was unpredictable and it was one of the largest gambles in military history. But Ike made the call.
Early that afternoon, Eisenhower sat at his portable table and wrote out a press release on a pad of paper, a contingency if the invasion did not succeed. He wrote:
Our landings have failed, and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Personal responsibility. These used to mean a lot more. I don't want to believe it's too late for us to rediscover those traits as a country. I want to believe we can still earn it.