The boys of a distant summer are fading now, unsteady on their feet, many with canes and some on walkers. But when they talk of their longest day, their steps quicken, their eyes grow bright with proud remembrance of duty done.
This was the week when some of us remembered their remarkable deeds on a dark June morning 68 years ago, when the earth and time stood still and the greatest armada in history landed on the coast of France.
They’re leaving us swiftly now, dying at the rate of 800 every day, the last of the 16 million men who put on the khaki to march to the sound of the guns. Not much notice of the day was taken this year. President Obama forgot to say anything about their heroics and sacrifice. Maybe he was too busy, flying off to Hollywood to crack suggestive smutty jokes about Michelle and Ellen DeGeneres, and collecting campaign cash from a party for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Leadership Council. Even Michelle, who has lately been talking a lot about helping military families, was busy raising money in New York City and Philadelphia.
Homage to sacrificial courage has gone out of fashion in certain circles. The new World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, a favorite of veterans, their families and everyone else, is derided for its “triumphalism.” One critic likens it to something Mussolini could have built in Rome. Another sneers at the idea of preserving “the memory of something that ripped up half the planet, killed millions of people and took six years to run its course.”
Not so long ago a triumph of American arms was something for everyone to celebrate. “America hates losers,” Gen. George S. Patton said in the dreary early days of the war when nothing was going right, “and that’s why we’re going to win this war.” Nothing was more important than triumph, and no triumph was more remarkable or more complete than the triumph of the allies on the five invasion beaches of Normandy.