“They gave us our world.”
So said President Bill Clinton on June 6, 1994, at the 50th anniversary observance of the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches of France.
The world in 1994—as now—had forgotten the immense peril threatening the nations in the person of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
Those Clinton was referring to as having “given us the world” were the soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Poland, and other countries who landed on the five invasion beaches that day.
More than ten thousand Allied troops died that day alone.
In 1995 on a trip to France, my wife and I drove from Paris to Normandy to visit the beaches where Clinton and other dignitaries had paid tribute a year earlier. As we drove through villages, we kept encountering large letters painted on rooftops, walls, fences, and signs: “WELCOME TO OUR LIBERATORS”.
I had to wipe away a tear as I realized that the elderly men and women still alive in 1994 were saluting the elderly soldiers who had risked their lives to stop Hitler in 1944. Rather than coming ashore from the English Channel, the old soldiers were now arriving at Normandy in cars and buses.
But the words on the French survivors’ signs reached beyond my physical senses of sight and pierced into my spirit. Suddenly I realized that this was a greeting the world should ...