Sixty-nine years ago, this morning, 156,000 very young men from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Free France, and Norway landed on the coast of Normandy. Disembarking from landing craft on some of the landing beaches, thousands were killed before even reaching dry land.
June 6, 1944 was the day that the Allies entered the European continent on foot and began ground operations aimed at the destruction of Nazi Germany.
Air operations with that aim had been ongoing for at least two years, with tens of thousands of very young men engaged in an aerial war of attrition to terrorize the German people, destroy their war-making capacity, and achieve the air superiority necessary for the cross-channel invasion.
By the end of the war with the Axis powers -- Japan, Germany and Italy -- the United States lost nearly a half-million very young men. A million more returned home irreparably scarred in body or spirit.
But they were the Greatest Generation.
Men, and women, inculcated with a rare character trait -- virtue.
They went to war, not necessarily so willingly as tradition holds -- the best kept secret of the Vietnam War is that the percentage of true volunteers (not drafted) was higher than during the Second World War -- but, with a grand sense of collective duty and purpose.
And when they returned home, they went quickly and quietly back to work and built the strongest economy the world had ever seen, then or since.
Most of the men who left buddies in eternal rest on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific, are they themselves now resting in hallowed ground across our nation. A few still stand, rising reverently to salute the flag of their nation under which they fought and under which their buddies were buried.
The Colonel has no words with enough adequacy to convey his appreciation and respect.
So, he'll just say: