VE Day: They forged our future years ago

May 8, 2016

VE-DAY-PictureThree and a half years earlier, Thanksgiving dinner was still two weeks away.  A month later America was at war and they had no idea if this day would even come.  Some had been in for the entirety, signing up the day after Pearl Harbor, others came along a few weeks later as they got their affairs in order, and the remainder as their draft notice arrived and the ranks got filled.

They came from every corner of the country.  The streets of Brooklyn, the wheat fields of Kansas, the hills of Tennessee, the vastness of Montana, the home of the Alamo, the east coast, the west coast and all places in between.

They were of every religion and no religion.  They were rich, poor and dozens of degrees in between.  They had every skin color, heritage, ethnicity known to the human race.  They were as diverse and different in speech and accents as the world itself.

And yet for all their differences, their stereotypes, their prejudices, on this day they were all one in one most important fact:  they had survived the bloodiest, most brutal conflict in human history.

Through the initial disasters in North Africa, the slog up Italy’s boot, the blood red beaches of Normandy and the hell of Bastogne, they had seen it all.  In the skies above they nearly froze to death at 25,000 feet as they flew through flak so thick you could almost walk to the target, saw 20mm cannon shells turn a fuselage into Swiss cheese and recoiled in horror as they watched buddies they’d just had breakfast with two hours earlier hurtle to Earth in a spiraling fireball that had gone from plane to coffin in seconds.

We know of some units Easy Company, the Mighty Eighth, Tuskegee Airmen, The Big Red One, Patton’s Third Army through Hollywood’s retelling of their stories.  Yet on this day none was different than another.  For the day that dawned that morning delivered to them all a single message:  that night would fall not with worries about the next mission but of seeing their dreams of going home at long last a reality.

Some of you by now know exactly this day of which I write.  Sadly we are in the minority.  The majority of Americans today will go about their day oblivious to it.  But I can’t really blame them.  For years now our schools haven’t taught it and the media barely covers it.

This day of which I write, May 8th, 1945, VE day – Victory in Europe, may have been the biggest news of the century to date those 71 years ago but it gets not a second thought today.

And for far too many it’s a “and why should it” attitude.  Locked in their battles to secure sanctuary cities, protect a man’s “right” to use a women’s restroom, and ensure that no student on any college campus ever be exposed to speech contrary to their own, they just don’t have the time.

Why waste energy on remembering some stupid old date on a calendar when there are so many manufactured crises needing attention today?

To which I answer:  Because there was a time when real evil threatened the world, a time when millions died at its hands, and a time when hardship was more than going without your cell phone for a day.

Because the present you live in today was secured with their blood, their sacrifice.

And if you’re unwilling to reflect upon that, unwilling to appreciate what was done on your behalf, well, quite frankly, you don’t deserve another day in it.  It’s their future, not yours.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the Sunday, May 8th 2016 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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