Seventy-six years ago today, tens of thousands of Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen conducted the largest amphibious and airborne operation in history. Their mission was to enter the continent of Europe and defeat Nazi Germany. There are not many left who participated, but what they accomplished forever changed the course of world history. America had five divisions in the initial assault: the 1st Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division, 82d Airborne Division, and 101st Airborne Division. Many of the Soldiers of the 1st Division and 82d Airborne Division had been bloodied in combat in North Africa and Italy. Most in the other divisions did not yet know the true face of combat.
The Soldiers in these divisions assaulted their objectives, but few had imagined the intense fire that awaited them at Omaha Beach, or the confusion and missed dropped zones caused by German anti-aircraft fire. The assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt Jr, landed in the first wave with his troops on Utah Beach. Because of currents, smoke, and enemy fire, they landed about a mile from where they were supposed to be. BG Roosevelt ascertained where they were, realized the mistake, and is purported to have said, “We’ll start the war from here.” Armed only with a pistol, he inspired, directed, and led his men inland over the beach, eventually being awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism under intense fire.
The ensuing hours of unbelievable acts and heroism by incredible servicemen who never considered themselves anything but ordinary, secured a tenuous toehold in France. It was the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. What those men did the night of 5 JUN and the day of 6 JUN is nearly impossible to comprehend, even for those who have been in combat. In that first 24 hour period, there were over 12,000 Allied casualties, including over 4400 dead. Those are numbers that most of us have not seen in our lifetimes.
Why is it important for us to remember and reflect on this moment in history? Because it set the standard for sacrifice, teamwork, and excellence that has motivated Service Members for the past 76 years. And true to that heritage, today’s Veterans are no less amazing or humble. They have deployed repeatedly to foreign lands to face an enemy that is intent on destroying our way of life, accomplishing their missions, and setting the standard for what we can do when we all work together. Our HFOT Veterans have suffered significant injuries defending our freedoms and independence in this current fight, but that has not diminished their resilience nor deterred their commitment to rebuilding their lives. You continue to play a significant role in HFOT’s efforts to Build Homes and assist these brave men and women to Rebuild their Lives, and for that, we at HFOT are eternally grateful.
Thanks for all that you do for these Veterans. Stay safe in these challenging times, and never forget the heroes of D-Day or the heroes of today.