Happiness is…Expressing gratitude for the sacrifice of others.
Two contributing factors to extreme happiness is the ability to express gratitude in a genuine way and to recognize the sacrifice of others who have made it possible for you to reach this state of happiness.
June 6, 2019, will mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. What better time to express gratitude and recognize the sacrifice of others than at this time.
I’m a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War (I was never deployed). I have always had a keen interest in D-Day, but a couple of events have escalated it. First, I have arranged for Monsieur Bernard Marie to be the Key Note Speaker at the Volvo UAW Memorial service on the morning of May 26th.. He is a D-Day survivor not as a veteran, but as a 5-year old French boy living at Normandy. Second is that on the eve of D-Day, I will be attending a very special D-Day Dinner hosted by M. Marie.
How much do you know about D-Day?
Operation Overlord, which we know as D-Day, was the code-name for the Allied assault upon Normandy Beach, the largest military endeavor in history. Unlike so much of the rest of the war, this was not a battle for land conquest, it was for the liberation of an entire country and the total annihilation of Hitler’s Third Reich, a regime that was responsible for murdering between 13 and 18 million civilians.
This operation was on a scale that seemed almost like a science fiction movie. It was an orchestrated assault of more than 150,000 troops consisting of soldiers, sailors, paratroopers, and specialists. It required the almost overnight design and construction of specialized fighting equipment, such as the amphibious Duplex Drive tanks that could be unloaded far offshore, maneuvered through the water to run onto the beach, and then be operated as an armored tank. Portable harbors, called Mulberry Harbours, had to be fabricated, made seaworthy, sunk into place just off the Normandy Beach, AND be capable of supporting hundreds of tons of equipment being offloaded continuously.
Much consideration had to be given as to the location of the invasion site. Strategic and geographical considerations had to be studied. It had to be readily accessible from the English coast. The nature of the beach, what obstacles they might present, what German defenses were in play, how various moon phases effected the tides, if there were harbors, airfields, channels and ports that could be captured, or would have to be built, had to be evaluated. All of these led to the selection of Normandy.
Imagine you were there.
Sometimes when you show gratitude, you need to show empathy. But you can only show empathy if you have lived through the experience. None of us did. So I ask you to stop and imagine. Imagine what it was like to be in a landing craft, vehicle, personnel (known as a LCVP), your heart pounding at that moment when the front was to drop, knowing you’d be exposed to enemy fire. Feel the panic as you leave the craft, and immediately sink to the bottom of the surf, fighting to bring you, and your 70 pounds of gear, back to the surface, just to then face enemy gun and cannon fire as you fought to make it to the beach.
Imagine you are one of the paratroopers, jumping blindly from the plane into a black void, feeling the jolt as the chute was yanked from its pack, and frantically searching for a recognizable landmark you can spot in the pitch darkness of the night. Praying all the while that you’re not shot before reaching the ground.
Imagine you’re in one of the gliders, which were nothing but canvas covered plywood, aptly nicknamed “flying coffins”. Know that you have no more than 30 seconds to locate a landing spot, and commit to landing as there will be no second chances to set down. And once you land, IF you are still alive, then you’ll have to fight your way through Nazi’s to secure a bridge.
In spite of all the advanced planning, using the best of personnel, many things went wrong. The advanced shelling from ships and planes failed to take out their targets. Many paratroopers who went in advance of the assault missed their landing points and were killed before landing. Most of the amphibious tanks never made it to shore. Landing crafts missed their points, and left soldiers exposed to enemy fire for long periods. I am certainly no military expert, but I have absolutely no doubt that we now celebrate D-Day seventy-five years later, entirely due to the guts and grit of the troops that day.
So let’s stop and pay gratitude and recognize those veterans who began the destruction of the Nazi war machine on that fateful day. Let’s remember, and honor, the estimated 4,400 allied troops that died, and four times that amount who were injured or captured.
In the last year I have had the honor of becoming friends with a great American patriot, who survived D-Day as a 5-year old French boy living at Normandy. If you’d like to watch his message to a Memorial Weekend audience on May 25, 2019, the video is posted below..
Jerry L. Haynes is a local author. You may visit him at his website www.BringingHopeAndHappiness.com or may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org