As professionals in the policing profession, we pride ourselves on running to the sound of gun fire, to protect innocent lives and bring wrong doers to justice. There are moments in history, however, that rise above even that bravery and service that must be preserved and honored because those moments are a transcendent reminder of the sacrifice that is required for liberty and justice to be preserved. D Day remembered, June 6, 1944, is such a day that transcends nations and ages bringing to view monumental courage, sacrifice and service to mankind.
Historical Dates are a Bookmark to the Story of People
D Day survivors are fewer and fewer as the years roll by and the standard of their heroism still sets a benchmark for those of us currently serving and have yet to serve. Too often, history is taught as dates, famous names and places or statistical information and the human story is left untold. In truth, historical dates are merely book marks within the rich, amazing lives of human beings who answered the call to protect innocent lives and fight against evil.
June 6 is merely the bookmark to direct our attention to look further and to learn about the people, on the beaches of Normandy, as well as those who risked their lives to make this day in history happen and confront outright evil. D Day remembered is not about a day, it is about people, many of whom will never be mentioned in history books by name.
From 16 year old youths who concealed their age to serve, to underground resistance in Europe risking everything to provide intelligence to the military led to the culmination of the landings at Normandy beaches. The story of that incredible act of selfless courage is a web including people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who began standing alone against the social, religious and governmental forces in his home country of Germany; continuing to stand firm as he was executed.
The Point of Learning the Story behind Historical Dates
When most people learn about D Day in school, June 6, 1944 is presented as the day that Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy to defeat German Nazi forces. The statistical information that 9000 plus Allied troops died on those beaches and 100,000 successfully landed to push back Nazi occupying forces is taught, then moving onto the defeat of Germany and the end of WWII. Highlights of the Jewish Holocaust are discussed, often in clinical detachment and now in the age of political correctness and relativism, the underlying principles that guided those who sacrificed so much are not examined.
We cannot learn from history by memorizing bookmarks. The learning comes from asking what motivated a 16 year old to lie about his age to serve in the military, to land on a beach and call for his mother as he lay dying. Who would risk being sent to prison or execution in an occupied country to sneak important information out to opposing forces to help defeat the German military forces? Why would a German pastor flee his country, only to return to stand against religious, political and business leaders, even friends to the point of execution? What sustained the men who landed upon those bloody beaches as their friends died next to them under withering fire and little cover to protect their advance?
Answering these questions is what makes history of value to those who come after the sacrifices these very real people made and the legacy they left behind. When we who follow fail to dig beyond the bookmarks, their sacrifices are blurred and are then taken for granted. When we lose sight of what they fought, why they sacrificed and what motivated their courage under fire, we risk following down a path that leads to the same suffering that occurred by neglecting to see the political, economic and social warning signs we were left with.
What Does D Day Mean for Policing?
The incredible courage it took to land on those beaches under devastating fire, death all around and continuing to move forward provide an inspiration and benchmark of bravery for those of us that serve and protect our communities from those who would prey on the innocent. We must also pay attention to the cautionary tale of Hitler’s secret police that terrorized those who opposed his intentions or fell out of political favor as opposed to lawful standards of criminal conduct.
In a sense, D Day remembered is best carried forward by striving towards that standard of courage under fire, taking the time to learn the human stories and the web of events that led to that landing being necessary and most importantly, preventing those circumstances of human atrocities from taking hold again. As a beneficiary of those who sacrificed so much, as an American and as a deputy sheriff who served the public, I am humbled and grateful to have the privilege of writing this tribute in honor of their sacrifice for freedom and justice for all.
What does D Day mean to you? Do you think that the story of D Day matters anymore? Do you think that D Day can teach us about current events? Does hearing from an actual survivor affect your perception of history? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.