Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
On this day in 1863, during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacks General George G. Meade‘s Army of the Potomac at both Culp’s Hill and Little Round Top, but fails to move the Yankees from their positions.
The largest military conflict in North American history begins this day when Union and Confederate forces collide at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia.
In the United States, June 6, 1944 will receive passing mention on news programs and social channels. There are few, if any, parades or official remembrances. Even those veterans who fought across the beaches and on to Berlin will receive scant recognition for what they did to liberate a continent and preserve the blessings of freedom for those who would follow.
In Normandy, they have not forgotten. They have not forgotten the Nazi occupation nor those who came ashore and dropped from the heavens 78 years ago. There are parades, remembrances, reenactments, parachute drops, and fireworks. The entire region, thousands of people, come out to welcome these heroes of the WW II generation, hug them, kiss them, ask them for photographs and autographs, and listen to their stories, stories they remember as if D-Day were yesterday.
But D-Day was not yesterday. It was 78 years ago. Those who fought there are creeping up on a century of life; some have passed that milestone. Soon they will walk among us no longer, their legacy honored by some, unappreciated by others, forgotten by too many.
The people of Normandy remember what it was like to be invaded and oppressed. And they remember what it was like to be liberated. They pass along the stories and the appreciation. What these men did on June 6, 1944, and in the months that followed will not be forgotten here. It is a privilege to spend time with them on the beaches, fields, and towns in which they fought.
As I push Walter Stowe through the Brittany American Cemetery in his wheelchair, he reminds me that in life we will touch a great many people. The question, he says, is will the people whose lives we touch be the better for it? Wise words.
Remember these citizen soldiers today and every day. Spend time with them at every opportunity. Listen to their stories. Embrace their wisdom. And when the last of them walks among us no longer, honor their sacrifice by standing strong for the freedoms for which they fought.
Read it all and watch President Reagan’s speech from 1984.
On this date in 2010 at First United Methodist Church in Van Wert, OH we debuted the anthem commissioned in my mother’s memory, Longing to Draw Near by Craig Courtney. My grandparents Maney were married 105 years ago on this date in 1917 (105 years!! How can that be??), my dad participated in D-Day on this date in 1944, I graduated from high school 51 years ago on this date in 1971, and my daughter Bridget graduated from high school on this date in 2008. June 6 has been a big day for the Maney family!
Today marks the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the greatest amphibious assault the world has ever known (and hopefully will ever know). Sadly, most of those valiant soldiers are now dead, and our country is the poorer because of it.
The Normandy invasion was a terrible and costly effort on the part of the Allies and must have been horrendous to those who had to face the deadly onslaught of the Nazi defenders. I would commend Stephen Ambrose’s book, D-Day, to anyone who is interested in this monumental battle. Ambrose was a wonderful storyteller, which all good historians are, and meticulous in his research. He weaves an absolutely riveting and terrifying tale of what the first troops landing in Normandy that day faced, and anyone with a semblance of imagination who can put himself in those soldiers’ shoes is sure to wonder if he could have faced that deadly fire with the courage and resoluteness that those soldiers did. I am simply awe-struck by it all.
I am also proud that my own father, John F. Maney, was part of that great and historic event. Fortunately, he did not have to hit the beaches until D+2 because it wasn’t until June 8th that our forces were able to establish a beachhead substantial enough to land a significant artillery presence, of which he was part. Like many of his generation, my dad is now dead, but one of my fondest memories is when we went back to Uffculme, England in 1984 to visit where he was stationed. We went into a pub to get some supper and find a place to sleep that night, and ultimately were led to a man who had been a “honey-dipper” while dad was stationed there, prior to D-Day. When Roy entered the pub that evening, he shook my dad’s hand and said to him, “Hello, young soldier.” He then welcomed dad back and thanked him for his service. It was as poignant a moment as I have ever experienced because my dad was no longer young and was no longer a solder; but he had been there, and he had been part of that monumental effort. I will always treasure it.
Thank you, young soldiers, for your bravery and determination in defeating an unspeakable evil that was Nazism. You paid a terrible price so that the rest of us can enjoy our freedom. I hope and pray we do not forget you or your generation, or the price freedom sometimes requires to persevere. Likewise, I pray we will not forget what it means to live responsibly in this democracy of ours so that we will not abuse the freedoms for which so many of you fought and died.
Who are your heroes from that generation? If they are still alive, take a moment today and thank them for being who they are.
Today is the traditional day for Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day.” Until 1971 it was always celebrated today. But afterward it has become a movable federal holiday. You can read about its history here, and I hope you will take the time to do so. On a personal note, my grandparents Shaffer were married 105 years ago today in 1917. That it has been 105 years boggles my mind.
Take a moment today to remember again those who have given their lives so that we might enjoy the freedom we have. Take time to remember the current members of our armed forces as well and give thanks that God continues to raise up brave men and women to serve our country in a very dangerous world.
Thank you veterans, past and present, for your service to our country. May God bless you and yours.
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.
Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).