Fathers, Daughters & D-Day
On this, the 62nd anniversary of D-Day, my thoughts turn, as they always do, to two men. Neither of them fought in WWII, but they each helped me understand the enormity of what the men who landed on the beaches or parachuted behind enemy lines accomplished that day.
The first man is Ronald Reagan. I was 12 years old in 1984 and I vividly remember watching Reagan's speeches commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day. First, I watched him describe the exploits of the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc.
You can sense his awe when he talks about these men:
Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.
Later that day, Reagan headed to Omaha Beach and gave another speech. This speech was more personal and the Gipper, along with most of the crowd, was tearing up by the end. It's my favorite Reagan speech. These are the lines that I always remember:
Lisa Zannata Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: "I'm going there, Dad, and I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let any one else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud."
I'm sure not coincidentally, President Bush used some similar imagery in his 2004 speech at Normandy, given on the heels of Reagan's death:
Before the landing in Omaha, Sergeant Earl Parker of Bedford, Virginia proudly passed around a picture of Danny, the newborn daughter he had never held. He told the fellows, "If I could see this daughter of mine, I wouldn't mind dying." Sergeant Parker is remembered here at the Garden of the Missing. And he is remembered back home by a woman in her 60s, who proudly shows a picture of her handsome, smiling, young dad.
To me it's entirely fitting that these Presidents used the words of fathers and daughters to celebrate D-Day because the other person I always think about today is my Father. My Dad passed away 3 years ago and instead of thinking about him on his birthday or Father's Day, I find that I think about him more when I do or see something that I know he would have enjoyed, like a NCAA tourney game decided with a last second bucket or the accomplishments of his grandsons or a program about D-Day.
Dad was only 11 on D-Day, so his personal memories were mostly about the boy who taught him how to swim one summer and then went on to join the 101st Airborne and jump into Normandy. But he was a history buff. He made sure his children were raised on a steady diet of WWII movies, Victory at Sea shows and Time Life WWII books (complete with gory pictures!). Because of that, I knew all about the "Greatest Generation" before Tom Brokaw, Stephen Ambrose and Tom Hanks made it cool.
Today is a day when all Americans should pause and think about the gift of freedom these brave men gave us. But it's also a day that I stop to think about one of the gifts my Dad gave me, which was to grow up already knowing and appreciating the sacrifices America made for the sake of liberty. So many people today grew up in the cynical 60s and 70s. They grew up thinking America was the cause of the world's problems. Because of my Dad, I got to grow up seeing America the way that he saw it and that Reagan saw it: as that shining city on a hill.
So today I say "thank you" to all the veterans and "thank you" to everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan today. But, I also want to say "Thanks, Doc" ;-)
Posted by at June 6, 2006 01:20 AM
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|# June 6th, 2006 8:28 AM KVBigSis|
|Damn, you made me cry, and first thing in the morning! Dad would have been very proud of this column. |
|# June 6th, 2006 11:33 AM Laura|
|Great post. And I find I'm actually a bit jealous of you re: your Dad. :-) |
|# June 8th, 2006 5:42 PM mbrlr|
|Our shining city is a bit tarnished. That's not cynicism, that's dealing with reality.
My Dad grew up in the depression in small-town Arkansas. He knew exactly what the New Deal did, he knew exactly why we were fighting in WWII, and, to his credit, realized why segregation was wrong. My Dad was a hard-line Democrat...except he never voted for Faubus. When Win Rockefeller came along, he gladly voted Republican for Governor during those two terms.
Reagan, unlike many of his Hollywood compatriots, didn't fight. He made films for the war effort. I'm not denigrating that, but I never heard a solid explanation for why he didn't go and Jimmy Stewart did.
|# June 9th, 2006 7:59 AM kris|
|oh for christ's sake. you're going to question Reagan's military record now? seriously, stop it.
|# June 9th, 2006 1:24 PM james|
Reagan took the military exam and failed, multiple times, because he had very poor eyesight. He wanted so bad to do his part that he practically begged the military to let him serve anyway. (like i said, he took the exam multiple times.) he was very proud to do movies to boost troop morale, because he was willing to do anything to help.
you know, mbrlr, my brother is currently serving in iraq. now whatever it is that you do all day, im not denigrating that - but i have never heard a solid explanation as to why my brother went and you didnt. just sayin.
"i have never heard a good explanation as to why mbrlr didn't do X while (insert anyone's name here) did do X." this is how you argue? ha.
|# June 9th, 2006 1:35 PM mbrlr|
|I don't question that he served, but some realization of what that service was, in light of the banging and clanging we did then and in the elder Bush's administration and now, would be appropriate. I never did hear a really full explanation of exactly why he didn't go into a unit headed for action. I'm not denigrating his contribution to the war effort, but in light of all the flag-waving he engaged in later on, I was curious as to what 'xactly accounted for it.
Anyway, don't get me wrong. I'm glad he continued the basic cold war policies followed by both Republicans and Democrats since 1945, that star wars nonsense excepted, but I didn't like the way issues here on the home front were handled.
My main concern is the "shining city on the hill" bit. Recognize our strengths and our virtues, but making us into something beyond criticism or evaluation is just a bit over the top. We've acted for the most part in our history in the best interests of all, but our internal and external history proves that vestal virgins we ain't.
|# June 9th, 2006 2:03 PM mbrlr|
|Well, James, I'm in my 40s for one thing, I've got only one working arm after spinal surgery, and I'm damn near blind. Having said that, even if I were healthy as a horse, nothing about my belief/disbelief concerning this wretched war would change one bit.
As for Reagan, I know that hearing loss was cited as the reason. Are those documents available anywhere concerning that early hearing loss? Just curious.
Your brother went because he honors his commitments and he and our country were lied to by those we elect and trust not to do this sort of thing who did not honor theirs.
I hope your brother makes it through all this okay and please know that I and my family have our troops in our thoughts and prayers. Disagreeing with this administration and being mad at them for placing our troops in harm's way on false pretenses shouldn't be construed as not supporting our troops. Even though we now have instances where some of our troops may have committed war crimes or other offenses, it should be remembered that those troops wouldn't have had the opportunity to succumb to those impulses had this mess not been falsely churned up by those at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.