“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and the prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”
What Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower told his men just prior to the invasion of Normandy 70 years ago will never be forgotten as long as freedom loving people grace the face God’s green Earth. And the men who sacrificed their lives on June 6, 1944 also will never be forgotten.
On the first day alone America and its allies suffered at least 12,000 casualties with 4,414 confirmed dead. The Germans lost 1,000 men in their efforts to repel us and our allies. Those numbers give you a sense of the difficulty of the task that those men embarked on, on that cold, rainy day in 1944.
It is my honor to be in Normandy to represent the residents of the 11th District of Texas on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I am there not just to pay my own respects to the men who died for freedom, but to pay your respects to these heroes.
When I stand there and look to one side and see the graves marked by Crosses and Stars of David, and look to the other side and see the beaches and cliffs on which the men who died fought, I find that I am stunned by their courage. Their heroism is all the more incredible when you consider that for many of these young men, this was not the first time they had participated in an opposed amphibious assault. The only thing more remarkable than a man placing himself in harm’s way is for that man to intimately know the danger of what he is doing and still be willing to do it.
When Gen. Eisenhower told them, “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely,” this was not a warning for these men. It was a reminder of what they had already experienced. The courage of these young men to go into battle knowing that the odds of them surviving were poor at best, is awe inspiring.
I am proud that our country produced and continues to produce men like the ones who had the courage to wade ashore with fortified cliffs in front of them and bullets raining down upon them.
These men did not die in vain. They died for an idea of freedom and also for something tangible. As Eisenhower said, they were fighting for “security for ourselves in a free world.” In other words, they died for the lives that you and I enjoy. They died so we could raise a family. They died so we could start a business and go to church. They died for your children and grandchildren and mine.
On that day 70 years ago, these men were serving their country. It is our responsibility as Americans to never forget these men who have sacrificed their lives defending our freedom and to live lives worthy of their sacrifice.