After D-Day, what endures

The more time passes, the more we can appreciate the timelessness of that historic event.

Or series of events. Before it gets any further away on the calendar, I want to point out some striking memorials and they continued to come out even after June 6th, the day of the Normandy landings, the day that initiated the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II.

Tributes to that day on the 70th anniversary were remarkable.

Hotair’s Ed Morrissey gave this tribute.

There is little to say or write about D-Day that hasn’t already been expressed over the past seventy years by those more eloquent than me, or especially by those who took part in the greatest invasion in human history, and for the noblest purpose. Some events challenge not just the imagination, but even language itself. Seventy years ago, the assault on the beaches of Normandy by the free men of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and units from the countries occupied by the Nazi horror remains perhaps the most stunning act of determination and defiance in history, as 160,000 men stormed Fortress Europe and sent evil reeling — thousands of whom would die that day for freedom.

And he gives video after tortured, treasured video testifying to the raw reality of that day.

They certainly gave everything they had — so that we might live free, and not just in Europe but in America as well. Many of them gave their lives for a freedom to which they knew they might never return, but those men gave us that precious gift. May we remember them, and the men who survived and kept fighting and then returned home to build their lives and families too. We owe them a debt that can only barely be imagined, but can be repaid with constant vigilance and dedication to the cause for which they fought.

Freedom.

Ronald Reagan’s commemorative Normandy speech concludes the post, every bit of it worth experiencing.

Tod Worner did something similar here on Patheos. Something poignant and eloquent and very human.

Now, it may be argued that the horrors discovered in Europe long after D-Day exceeded anything that could have been imagined when the invasion began. But Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and men and women of the military knew the Nazi worldview: Aggression, Fanaticism, Hatred, Ruthlessness, Greed. Values antithetical to human dignity and freedom. The Nazi creed taken to its extreme, yet logical, end would lead to the concentration camp. And it needed to be stopped.

So 70 years after D-Day…what have we learned? Were there doubts? Absolutely. Trepidation and uncertainty coursed through every individual from the grunt to the generals. Was there a duty recognized by leaders and soldiers alike to liberate the European peoples? Unquestionably. And what was the outcome?

Deliverance. Sweet deliverance at a very high price.

Doubt. Duty. Deliverance. To all veterans who have paid or been willing to pay that price, humbly, sincerely and endlessly…thank you.

For those who fully appreciate the cost and for those who never knew the price paid, The Atlantic provided a stunning visual montage, each photo worth time spent lingering.

How many countless people and nations are grateful for those who took some part, any part, in this historic and timeless event in the battle for human freedom.

The French still are, notes John Fund at NRO.

“We love you! Thank you for all you did!” 15-year-old Audrey Rigaud said with tears in her eyes as she embraced Bob Bedford, a 90-year-old veteran of D-Day, outside the banquet this small French town held in honor of their country’s liberation from Nazi occupation. The difference in their ages may have been three quarters of a century and their cultures a continent apart, but the message was clear: A surprising number of French haven’t forgotten America’s role in “the liberation.”

Audrey had come to Normandy all the way from Marseille — 700 miles away — with her classmates to commemorate D-Day for a school project. “Our feelings are so full, we want to make sure no one forgets the liberation,” Olivia Diddi, a fellow student of Audrey’s, told me. For his part, Bedford was overwhelmed by the reception he’s gotten. “It’s the first time I’ve been back since 1944,” the former Navy lieutenant told me. “If I’d only known how they felt.”

Fund was there, to capture this commemoration.

I heard a lot of things in Normandy this week that might sound trite or simplistic to someone who has never been in battle. But you quickly realize that the reason some truths are eternal and valuable is precisely because they can have such great meaning to people. Europe was occupied by a terrible tyranny and its people were slowly starving as the war ground on. America, Britain, Canada, and other countries that sent their young men and women overseas to take back Europe did a noble and courageous thing. It’s refreshing to learn that so many people in Europe who weren’t alive to witness the joy of liberation still do so much to commemorate it…

The message I take away from the windswept beaches of Normandy is that there are times when tyranny must be opposed with every fiber of our being — and that service comes in many forms, some dangerous and some just a matter of doing what even the weakest among us can. And finally, that even though it can’t be expected or wished for, the gratitude of people toward those who fought against tyranny can be long-lasting indeed. I learned that here in Normandy.

There’s a message flickering in some of these statements and memories and reports of commemorations. It’s a message that service is there today for all of us to take up and act on, and even if it seems mundane or simple, it is there in front of us to do. So that in our own way, we hold off modern day forces of tyranny against the weak and vulnerable and dependent, anywhere we encounter such threats. For the long-lasting effect such service may have.

What price religious freedom?

Early in the film ‘For Greater Glory’ an elderly pastor, warned that Mexican federales were storming toward his church and he faced imminent danger if he did not hide in a nearby home, said he was a priest and was already home, that he belonged in the church. “Who are you if you don’t stand up for what you believe?” That line was symbolic of the entire film and real life Cristeros War it revealed, and emblematic of the present time.

The Knights of Columbus played a significant role in the Cristiada, and they do today in the US, in defending religious liberty.

“For me, it’s more than something that happened 80 years ago,” [Producer Pablo] Barroso said. “This is something that really is the foundation not only of Mexico, but I think also of the whole continent. I don’t know what would have happened if these brave people had not stood up for their beliefs.”

That’s the theme that makes this film coming out at this time so…providential.

Although the film is about specific historical events, the filmmakers believe that its message about religious freedom is universal.

“We live in a time where religious freedom is as tenuous as it’s ever been,” said [Director Dean] Wright. “Whether it’s in the United States, the Middle East or Asia, people are standing up and saying, ‘You can’t do that. I have the right to say what I want, to believe what I want and to practice that faith.’”

After seeing an advanced screening of the movie, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said, “For Greater Glory is a powerful film that provides a compelling account of a forgotten era of our continent’s history. In celebrating the centrality of religious freedom and man’s need for God, it tells a story of enduring relevance, and is ‘must-see’ viewing for all who care about faith and liberty today.”

This message is repeated over and over by each of the film’s prominent actors, including Cuban-born Andy Garcia.

“The first stimulus for me as an actor to be a part of this movie was the notion of the quest for absolute freedom,” said Garcia. “Coming from a country where religious freedom was also curtailed and abolished, I was very sensitive to that reality and those struggles.”

Same for Mauricio Kuri, who played the role of young martyr ‘Joselito’ Sanchez del Rio.

Looking back on the whole experience, Kuri sees Bl. Jose’s true strength as being rooted in his courage to stand up for what he believes in.
 
“I think I would do that,”Kuri said, “because to defend for what you believe is the most cool thing” you could ever do…

Kuri encourages Catholics everywhere to stand up for religious freedom like the faithful Catholics of Mexico did during the Cristero War.

They are, in astonishing numbers, at the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rallies that went from huge on March 23rd to larger and more passionate last Friday, June 8. From Maine to Miami and Alaska to Honolulu, Americans turned out in public squares to boldly affirm their belief in the constitutional right to religious liberty.

The second wave of religious freedom rallies took place on Friday, filling courthouse squares, federal buildings, and university centers from New York to Los Angeles with the Founding Fathers’ views of liberty and conscience.

Tens of thousands participated in the more than 150 events organized by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

Actually, leaders of those two groups built a coalition of 65 religious and civil rights organizations, dedicated and determined to defend individuals and institutions from the federal HHS mandate that requires them to violate their consciences.

Interesting. Late in the film ‘For Greater Glory’, the Mexican president who launched the ruthless crackdown on religion and people of faith called for a meeting with the famous general who headed the Cristeros in defending religious rights. President Calles presented General Gorostieta with what he called a ‘compromise’, to which Gorostieta responded ‘there is no compromise of liberty.’ Freedom is absolute, he declared, and comes not from the state but from God.

Fighting for a post-war civilized society

Occasions like this give us the opportunity to consider modern life and current affairs in the context of world history which framed it all.

It is known outside the US as Armistice Day. And it’s a particularly keen one to note this year.

Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day) is on 11 November and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning—the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

This remembrance, this Veteran’s Day, takes place on another 11-11-11, and much has been made of that. But anything that focuses our attention on those who have served the cause of building and defending a free, just and moral society – what that means and what sacrificies that requires – is a good thing. There are countless stories to tell over the generations, but here are a few, from the Center for Vision & Values.

Dr. Mark Hendrickson has an interesting approach that I’ve always held, ‘what is seen and unseen’, especially since seeing the film Saving Private Ryan. There’s so much we never see of what military service requires and if we saw even a glimpse more of some graphic horrors our troops have faced we’d be thunderstruck. We would also appreciate them much, much more. They have been through so much ‘over there’ wherever that place was for veterans, and they come back and assimilate into suburban or rural or city life with their home folks and I don’t know how they do it.

Like Frank Kravetz, one of the veterans Dr. Paul Kengor writes about in ‘No Regrets.’ 

“Just existing became what was important,” says 87-year-old Frank Kravetz of Pittsburgh, captive of the “hell-hole” that was Nuremberg Prison Camp. “Yet even as I struggled with the day-to-day sadness and despair, I never once had any regrets that I signed up to serve.”

An extended tour of Nazi camps as a wounded POW scratching for survival wasn’t what Frank had in mind when he signed up to serve his country in World War II. He refused his parents’ wishes to stay home; they already had two sons overseas. Frank was eager to fight for the freedom his Slovakian parents had secured in America. It was the least he could do.

Kengor recounts a similar tale in ‘Nothing Dramatic.’ Veterans always play down their service, ‘just doing my duty’ they usually say.

“It was nothing dramatic,” says Dr. Karl E. Blake of Wexford, Pennsylvania, retired surgeon and member of the World War II generation, “but it was important, and no one has written about it, at least that I’ve seen.”

I got an unexpected call from Dr. Blake last Memorial Day, mid-afternoon, after just returning from the annual Memorial Day Parade in Mercer, Pennsylvania, which every year is a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell portrait—the essence of small-town America. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had published a profile I did of a local 87-year-old vet (same age as Blake) named Frank Kravetz, a former POW who did time in the “hell-hole” of the Nazis’ Nuremberg Prison Camp. I concluded that article with a plea to aging vets to share their unique experiences with the current generation, imploring them not to take this invaluable history to the grave.

“Well,” said the soft-spoken Blake, reminding me of my own words, “I’ve got something that I don’t think people know about. Someone needs to record this. Get it on-record. Pretty soon, none of us are going to be around to talk about it.”

“Okay,” I told him. “Start talking.”

“What people today don’t understand,” Blake began, getting right to the point, “is that in 1942, 1943, and so on, the government had no idea how long the war was going to last.”

We need to hear this account.

“And the government didn’t know, and the government was making plans for the long-term. There were measures that the government took to get a supply of educated people … dentists, physicians, all kinds of things. American society was going to need professional people. So many young men were serving in the war overseas.”

I hadn’t thought of that. I hadn’t read about it either—Blake’s point precisely.

Blake told me about three government programs, which he abbreviated as V-1, V-12, and ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program). The former were both Navy operations. Blake was in “V-1s.” These were rigorous academic programs heavy in math and science. Among the goals was to create a non-combat professional class. Blake was trained as a doctor…

Dr. Karl E. Blake never planted a flag at Iwo Jima or stormed the beaches of Normandy. He did nothing dramatic, but he did do something extremely important, as did thousands of Americans like him who fought the battle for post-war civilized society. Blake’s wartime training allowed him to save numerous lives after the war, far more than he might have saved in combat.

I heard a newsman say ‘If you see a veteran today, say thanks.’ We should try to do that every day, whenever we encounter one who served or does today, and their families.

God bless them all. And help us work for peace.