A couple of weeks ago as I was traveling across Kentucky, I decided to stop and get gas before returning to Lexington. When I got out of my car that morning to get gas, I heard the voice of an elderly gentleman ask if I knew where a certain fast food restaurant was located in town. Although I did not know where the restaurant was located, I looked around the pump and I noticed the elderly gentleman was wearing a Navy veteran ball cap, which like the elderly gentleman, was somewhat worn and tattered with age.
As a veteran, whenever I meet another veteran, I always take a moment to say thank you and then I try and spend a few minutes to get to know when and where that other veteran served. When the elderly gentleman answered my questions, I learned that he had served in the Pacific. As I stood talking with this elderly veteran, I knew I was standing alongside a member of the greatest generation, and I was standing next to one of the last survivors of the generation which preserved America’s freedom, and the freedom of the world.
As we stood there next to the gas pump, I was in awe as I listened to one of America’s heroes as he both quietly and humbly told me a little about himself. He shared with me that when war broke out, he wasn’t old enough to join. However, as with most of his friends, when he turned 17, he was standing in line to volunteer to join, and he proudly told me that he had chosen the Navy. What he shared with me about his service was that within weeks of basic training, he had been assigned to a ship and was off to the Pacific to join the battle, a hard, bloody battle, a battle to preserve freedom.
Although this elderly veteran fought and served in the Pacific, I couldn’t help but think about the sacrifices of all of those men and women who served and fought in World War II, men and women who selflessly gave of themselves, many knowing from the very first day of military service that they might never return home to family, friends, wives, husbands, children, neighbors, and many other loved ones.
As June 6, 2019 approaches, a day when we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the courage and dedication of those who served, and many who died during the invasion of Normandy, take a moment and consider the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower as he issued the order of the day for the invasion. General Eisenhower’s words should make all of us pause for a moment of prayer as we consider the courage of each of those brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The freemen of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander
So, before I close, let me take just a moment to return to my chance meeting of the elderly Navy veteran, that true American hero of World War II, that hero who I met standing next to a gas pump that day. Before ending our conversation, I reached out my hand to shake his hand and thank him one more time for his service and it was in that moment that I realized that there will never be another generation like his, a generation which not only came together on the battlefields across the globe, but a generation of even those who stayed at home who also sacrificed to preserve America’s freedom, and the freedom of the world.