I had to comment on Bob Norton’s beautifully written, “A Normandy pilgrimage for a father who served,” in remembrance of his Dad and the heroes of D-Day 75 years ago. This article and the guest column by historian Sam Wineburg, highlighting why ongoing research is so important, remind us of the great value of history and its place in an educated, informed society.
Years ago, almost everyone’s father or mother was somehow involved in World War II. My dad would not discuss his experiences except to say he never wanted to be cremated after what he saw at Buchenwald and other concentration camps. Veterans through time understand the trauma of experiences that change people forever, knowledge that can never be erased.
Once, when I was working at a large, crowded visitor center, a tourist walked up to me and said he had been part of the Resistance in France. He told me not to listen to younger people who criticized America, adding that he and those of his generation knew what our brave soldiers along with the Allies had done to liberate France.
Over 9,000 white grave markers in Normandy attest to valor, adversity and a malevolence we can barely comprehend these days; a reminder that war forever alters families, the land, cultures and our world. In the Southwest, we recently lost two more of our treasured Navajo Code Talkers, men who saved countless lives in the Pacific Ocean theater at the risk of their own. They, and other Native language Code Talkers, were in the forefront of protecting our soldiers in some of the deadliest confrontations in history.
The former French Resistance fighter could not finish telling his story because he started crying. But then, so did I. It was a reminder that the study of history in our schools and community is even more relevant as memories fade and our veterans slip away. History is the foundation of understanding how a strong democracy is more than just a baseline for future generations.
Mr. Norton’s article was exemplary in honoring the thousands who sacrificed their lives 75 years ago. Those of us who have not served in an armed conflict can have little concept of the adversity these people encountered, and still experience today. So, thank a veteran, not just on holidays, and remember the lessons of the past.