Seventy-three years since D-Day. In the first law firm I worked for in 1982 the Senior Partner had lost a son on Omaha Beach. A former partner of the firm was now a Judge, and still walked with a limp from being shot up on Omaha Beach. Another partner had been with the Eighth Air Force in England, helping to plot flight missions in support of D-Day. This was in a five man firm, including myself. D-Day left its mark on this nation, with its approximately 3,000 dead and 6000 wounded Americans, but with the passage of time the memories of that time grow fainter. All three of the men connected with the firm I worked for are now deceased and their living memories of that longest day are gone with them.
About 620,000 of the sixteen million American who served in World War II are now left. They are leaving us now at the rate of 500 a day. The youngest of them now are in their ninth decade. All too soon the men who fought in the Great Crusade as Eisenhower termed it, will be joining Washington’s Continentals, the Blue and the Gray, the Rough Riders and the Doughboys, as figures of history, no longer people we can talk to and meet.
Color film of the D-Day landings reminds us of the limitations of the historical record in conveying the reality of any historical event to those who did not experience it. Soon World War II will depart living memory and become the province only of the historians. Inevitable, but sad to those of us who recall the men and women who lived through these years, who spoke with them and felt some fragment of the passions of those times. Time is a river and it bears us all away, along with our memories and the passions of our life. The best memorial to our veterans who helped save the world from monstrous tyranny is to live our lives in such a way that we can rightly say, in the words of Lincoln, that these dead shall not have died in vain.