There are moments that define American pride and unity; such as remembering 74th anniversary of D-Day. D-Day is arguably the most identifiable World War II battle for most Americans, certainly the most recognizable event of bravery, courage and sacrifice as our military pushed into the unknown. With the fate of the world in the balance, they charged ahead. Our military charged out of those landing craft and leapt from planes with no guarantee of success. That did not matter; they did it, because it was their duty. They did it for their families back home and their buddies. But, more importantly, they did it so they could return home and live in peace and enjoy the great blessings of the Un
Most of us have a working knowledge of the basic facts: Roughly 160,000 Allied soldiers took part in an air and sea invasion of France, changing the course of the war and ensuring the defeat of Nazi Germany. It was a day of horrific and frightening battles. For much of the time, the outcome hung in the balance. The ultimate victory depended more on the personal bravery of the men on the beaches during the first 12 hours than the elaborate planning during the 12 months that had led up to them. However, the story of D-Day overshadows the greater context of what truly happened.
In our minds, D-Day becomes not only an important battle and turning point, but the critical moment of World War II. After the first 24 hours passed and the divisions were on the beaches, victory seemed inevitable. Except it wasn’t.
The month-long battle in Normandy that followed D-Day took many more Allied lives and the Germans came dangerously close to turning the front into a stalemate reminiscent of World War I. However, the Allies opened this second front in Europe and marched east toward Berlin. It would take 11 months of hard, bloody fighting before the Germans surrendered, but the successful landings made by American troops and its allies on June 6, 1944, were the beginning of the end for Hitler’s fascist regime.
Symbols of America
Events such as D-Day—are symbols for the larger whole. We honor and remember D-Day precisely because it was part of a larger chain bound by the very men who made the ultimate sacrifice. Americans were united as a people through patriotism. American flags flew proudly from the homes of our neighbors. We were, ‘one Nation under God,’ and we cared about each other as fellow Americans.
D-Day, much later 9/11, and most recently natural disasters seem to represent our nation at its best. These moments unite our Nation and allow each of us to feel proud to be a citizen of a country that is a beacon of democracy, freedom, and justice. Sadly, the difference between D-Day and more recent events is that upholding the virtues and values we stand for are often shattered.
America has become a divided nation. Our Founding Fathers’ dream of a cohesive unit working together to build a great nation is crumbling. Politics have divided people firmly. So much so that we don’t see each other as Americans but as ‘them’ vs ‘us.’ Some scholars say that the disharmony shouldn’t be a surprise. Remember the concept of America designed by our Founding Fathers was quite radical. This country, from its birth, was a conglomeration of cultures, beliefs and morals.
Somewhere along the road our vision narrowed, and we became a culture addicted to inflammatory content. Instead of believing in each other, supporting each other and working for the good of our Nation, we get riled up about issue x or issue y to get people to pay attention. Instead of lashing out at each other because we are different from each other, we need to try to learn from each other. We need to unite more often when there isn’t a crisis.
D-Day Anniversary- Widen Your Vision
So, on this Anniversary of D-Day, I ask all of you to widen your vision and realize that America is beautiful because of the diversity that is here. Stop making our differences the reason we are continually divided. Embrace each other, rely on each other and work together. Civility and respect for our fellow man sits in the heart of democracy. Whenever we are disrespectful toward our fellow humans, that disrespect serves as permission for others to do the same. Bill Bradley, American Hall of Fame basketball player and Rhodes Scholar suggests an alternative:
“Respect your fellow human being, treat them fairly, disagree with them honestly, enjoy their friendship, explore your thoughts about one another candidly, work together for a common goal and help one another achieve it.”
With all the difficulties and hard times our country has faced, don’t ask “why should I be proud to be an American?” Instead, ask “why shouldn’t I be proud?” We are far from perfect, but all the current disharmony has distorted those things that are right in the United States. Instead of being motivated and inspired to bring about positive change, we have allowed intolerance, ignorance and fear to fuel fires that are becoming harder to put out.
Daily Reminders That Define US
We need daily reminders that bring us together. Reminders that define us not only as people, but also as a whole nation. We are the land of the free, because of the brave. Men and women across this country are willing to fight and die for our country so we can stay free. As Americans we have the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and the right to vote. We must use those freedoms to bring us together, not to drive a wedge between us.
This Proud American
For this American, my ancestors came from Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Ukraine. I am a product of the American dream. My family has fought in the U.S. military. Past and present generations were willing to die, so others could experience and live that dream. My dad, an Army Sergeant, served proudly in World War II and reminded me daily how precious our freedom was.
Use this week to reflect and be proud to be an American. Remember that you can truly be anything you set your mind to. Your success is in your hands. America provides the opportunity, you must put in the hard work to make it happen.