Me, then and now
Many people watch D-Day ceremonies. Some of the brave, who were lucky to survive, share these ceremonies with us, aged, in wheelchairs, or supported by their siblings, children or relatives. I always wondered why the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. was erected before the World War II Memorial. Perhaps because of the collective guilt to erase the public perception that those who came back from Vietnam wounded but alive were considered less worthy, as that war had been made so unpopular, not in the least by the repulsive Hanoi Jane. But that Vietnam Memorial represents exactly the same spirit as the World War II memorial: it’s for those who died in the fight for liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom of the human spirit and initiative as opposed to totalitarian might and communism.
I am not American, but I considered fighting communism in Asia as worthwhile as fighting Nazidom and Japanese imperialism during World War II. And what would have happened if the Allies had been unable to defeat the Nazis in Europe? Or if they had been unable to stop the Russians at the Berlin Wall? Would communism not have been all over Europe keeping it in a much broader grip of impoverished and mowed-down nations? Would the Jewish population still exist?
I was 8, playing some feeble notes on the piano at my piano teacher’s house when a man came in with an orange pamphlet (the color of the Dutch royalty) stating that the Allied Forces had invaded France at Normandy. I still feel her embrace, screaming, “Johnny, we are going to be free.” Well, that was June 6, 1944. It took a bitter year of bombs falling, Nazi cruelty, executions, razzias, the pursuit of Jews, a horrific hunger winter with deep-freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls before the Allied forces finally reached us and chased the Nazis out the door on May 5, 1945.
German soldiers going home, defeated.
Today we commemorate the young and the brave who that last year fought their way through the foothills of the Ardennes, the battle of the Bulge, who died in the “Bridge too Far,” the failed attempt by General Montgomery to break through the Nazi lines in Arnhem at the Rhine, who struggled from Belgium to The Netherlands to lift us from five years of tyranny, fear, misery and murder.
This time, my piano teacher could embrace me for real. Her street hung out the red, white and blue flags and orange banners; stalls rose on the sidewalks with food dropped by allied bombers in the nearby tulip fields and meadows; people danced in the streets and embraced the dapper allied soldiers, Americans, Brits, and Canadians. Bands with trumpets and drums marched, making loud music, a festivity I will never forget. Our Royal family returned home from exile in Canada. No more fears of bombs dropping on or near our house, windows shattered, fighter planes soaring through the sky and downed in the nearby wood, eating tulip bread, nettles, or turnips. No more sirens in the night and friends being rounded up and taken away.
“Bombers” dropping food bags
You have to have lived through the opposite to feel what “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” really means. Personally, I find that a good deal of today’s politicians on the left in the West have forgotten what tyranny, communism and socialism, and lack of freedom represents. D-Day is a day to remember that freedom and the pursuit of happiness is a precious gift the brave and the young who fell for it handed us and we should treasure this gift to the fullest. Any doctrine of socialism, communism and totalitarian government runs counter that human right. Such doctrines are creeping back into our world and endanger our freedom-loving society and would destroy it again if not contained.
Marine Corps War Memorial (also called the Iwo Jima Memorial)D-Day is also to remember the Asian war and the terrible loss of American lives fighting for freedom over there.
Celebrations in Holland in May 1945, almost a year after D-Day.
I hope that today’s schools in the West teach the value of D-Day. But what one sees and hears in the media and on the streets, I’m not sure if our “millennials” and future leaders, and a good deal of today’s “loudspeakers,” acquire the wisdom of D-Day, or exude it to prevent that this awful history repeats itself. I want to be optimistic but I can’t say I am.