JB Shurk: Remembering D-Day’s Courageous Freedom Fighters

It is hard to believe that eighty years have already passed since American, British and Canadian troops landed at Normandy and fought their way across fortified beaches covered in German mines and barbed wire fences…

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hat a nightmare it must have been to overcome such soggy, uneven terrain while enduring heavy fire from gun emplacements secured upon hills and steep cliffs. It must have felt like being dropped off in Hell and navigating through a gruesome Jell-O of blood, sand, smoke, explosions and whirring bullets. There were no timeouts. There were no “safe spaces.” There was nowhere to hide. You either advanced or died.

Could Allied Forces accomplish such audacious feats today? It is hard to imagine the “Me-Me-Me Generations” putting their lives on the line for much of anything. Could you convince a socialist who believes that everything should be free that freedom is never free? Could you explain to a Millennial that storming a beach is not done for Instagram snapshots, social media approval or Facebook likes? Could you persuade all those Westerners who hate Western Civilization to pick up a rifle and fight for the West’s survival? I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong; there are still plenty of patriots among us. America’s armed services remain home to the kind of self-sacrificing heroes who would have parachuted behind enemy lines or fought tooth-and-nail to establish beachheads eight decades ago. However, the Pentagon has also watered down physical fitness standards, promoted “politically correct” Marxists into crucial command positions, and poisoned the rank and file with “woke” indoctrination.  

The Military is no longer a machine dedicated to advancing on the battlefield and killing the enemy; it is a labyrinthine bureaucracy dedicated to advancing officers’ political careers and sympathizing with the enemy. Only two decades after the 9/11 Islamic terror attacks killed three thousand Americans at home, the Pentagon is already more interested in fighting Islamophobia, celebrating men in skirts and punishing “white supremacy.” Can the same people who denounce American imperialism and Western colonialism in cultural sensitivity seminars be trusted to distinguish friend from foe?

Even worse than the “woke” buffoonery plaguing the Pentagon, parasitic self-loathing has sapped the moral strength from American culture.  

After Pearl Harbor, young men all across the country scrambled to enlist. Entire high school classes volunteered before graduating. Manufacturers struggled to keep businesses running as workforces left in droves. Defending America from foreign enemies was understood as a noble endeavor and important civic duty. So profoundly did young men feel an obligation to fight for their nation that every town knew of some unfortunate boy who had sadly taken his own life to avoid suffering the indignity of having been declared physically unfit for service. 

Without such monumental love of country and broad civic commitment, there is no way that thousands of young soldiers would have given their lives to climb up sandy walls, subdue German gunners, and fight from street to street. Small American towns would have never said goodbye to all their boys only to later chisel their names on town square memorials. American parents would have never waved American flags as they watched their sons leave home for good. A morally strong, unifying, and confident American culture was the essential ingredient to D-Day and Europe’s eventual liberation. Without American patriotism, there would have been no Allied victory. 

Today, patriotic love of country is regularly derided as “nativist” or “racist.”  The Federal Government labels anyone who defends the Bill of Rights, praises the Founding Fathers, or speaks too enthusiastically of American liberty as a potential “domestic terrorist.” “Disinformation” monitors censor online speakers who advocate for “America First” economic policies, voice support for President Trump and the J6 political prisoners, or defend local law enforcement from Antifa mobs.  A rallying cry as innocuous as “Make America Great Again” is ludicrously defined as impermissible “hate speech.” If you love America, the Pentagon’s “diversity experts” and the (in)Justice Department’s race-baiting arsonists look at you sideways.  

As for American culture — what does such a phrase even mean today? If we judge American culture by its television commercials, it is primarily an X-rated pleasure palace rife with sexually transmitted diseases, abortion on demand and “transgender” confusion. If we judge American culture by its movies and streaming shows, it is a violent and racist society in which white people steal from everyone else. If we judge American culture by the speeches of its elected representatives, America is nothing more than a “giving tree” for the rest of the world to wear down to a stump. No soldier would sacrifice his life for such a moral wasteland. No parent or town would sacrifice so much for so little.

Politicians and pundits frequently speak of “two Americas” — one that serves the rich and powerful and another that cages the poor and powerless. What they intentionally overlook is that we are in the midst of a great conflict over what it means to be an American. Are we defined by an enduring appreciation for individual rights and personal liberties; or are we nothing but a chalkboard whose principles are easily rewritten or erased? Do we share a common political history that cherishes the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights; or are we merely a collection of competing tribes and feuding families unable to honor a mutual past? Do we speak a similar civic language, or are we foreigners to each other? If there is nothing that binds us as one people, then America will eventually be scattered to the four winds. Two Americas will become ten, until there are a hundred, then a thousand and then finally none. One thing is certain: that kind of disjointed America, devoid of common purpose, could never land in choppy waters, push through blinding chaos and seize the high ground against a formidable enemy. That kind of America would struggle to defend itself. 

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In seeking inspiration, I have often turned to General Eisenhower’s Order of the Day distributed to Allied Forces on the eve of the D-Day invasion. “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade,” he wrote. “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.” When tens of thousands of young soldiers heard those words, they had no idea what kind of Hell awaited them. They did not know whether the invasion of France would be successful, or whether the fight for Europe would be lost in the early hours of a June morning. They did know that they would likely die in a foreign land far from their own families. Still, with apprehension and dread, they boarded aircraft and amphibious landing craft and headed into terrifying danger. Why? Because the eyes of the world were upon them, and the hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere depended upon their sacrifice. What a horrendous yet awe-inspiring thing it is for a man to lay down his life for another.

Eisenhower told his troops that they would be fighting to extinguish “tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.” He told them that their task would not be easy but that “free men of the world are marching together to Victory!” Finally, he beseeched Almighty God to bless “this great and noble undertaking.” Fighting tyranny to secure a free world with God’s guidance — what a tremendous responsibility.  If only today’s Western leaders spoke with such moral clarity.

As the human race seems condemned to repeat past tragedy, liberty-loving people will surely be forced to unite again to vanquish oppressive tyranny. When that tragic day arrives, remember the wisdom of the Greatest Generation: only courage and faith can secure our freedom. We must all march together.✪

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