Letter to the editor: On Memorial Day, let’s not forget what they did for us

As Memorial Day approaches it is a time to reflect upon what we are called to remember.

As one of the few remaining members of the so-named “Greatest Generation,” I hope we can take the time to remember why we are a free nation and at what cost.

We study the American Revolution in school, but do we learn of the more recent revolutions, WWI and WWII? During WWI, America rose to the threat of the undermining of world peace. Merely 20 years later we were impelled to do it again. We learned that Nazism was impregnating the vulnerable minds of those who were finally recovering from the idea that their loss of WWI — the war to end all wars — could never happen again. They allowed one charismatic man, Adolph Hitler, to give false hope of a stable future ideally for Germany to become once again a force in the world. It soon became obvious that this was not the case as his hatred for Jews became a fearful reality and part of his desire to invade virtually all of Europe.

While America pondered the dangerous display of terror that Nazism posed, Japan attacked our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. We were suddenly at war with Japan and also Germany. Names like Wake, Kwajalein, Guadalcanal, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Midway, Pacific Islands rolled off our lips. The European War brought the names of Anzio, Sicily, Casablanca, Normandy, Paris, Berlin to our new vocabulary. Boys barely past their childhood enlisted to serve their country. Soon every able-bodied man was conscripted to fight for our freedom.

This Memorial Day, we may remember D-Day — maybe not. That day, June 6, 1944 was the day that brave men from America, Great Britain and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. The beaches were named Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach and Juno Beach. 3,000 heroes lost their lives in that one day. This endeavor was named Overlord. During that ensuing Allied campaign to liberate Europe from Nazi control, it’s estimated that America lost 135,000 men. Meanwhile, the Nazis exterminated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.

At the same time, America was embroiled in the bloody war in the South Pacific. 111,606 soldiers were killed in that war. Finally, in 1945, Germany and Japan surrendered. The final tally of American men lost was 405,399, not to mention the warriors missing in action and wounded.

This Memorial Day let us remember that the freedom we enjoy is not free.

We promised never to forget.

Jean Panicucci


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