Commemorating D-Day as an American in Germany
Today we joined in the celebrations of the Berlin Airlift 70th anniversary. It ended up being a pretty emotional day for me. The 75th Anniversary of D-Day was commemorated just a few days ago. We marked the occasion while on German soil which is an extremely powerful thing to say. The Germans don’t commemorate D-Day like we do. It must be a confusing part of history for them to mark. But here we are. Americans stationed in Germany with the US Army memorializing and remembering a day that changed history.
The Wiesbaden US Army Airfield opened its fields and tarmac to 20 aircraft flown from the United States to be on static display for the event. Today I choked back tears while at the same time enjoying the simplicity of the childhood joy that comes from getting to explore really cool planes! With a lump in my throat, I boarded aircraft which carried the bravest men and women the world has ever known so that they could change the world. With their courage and with the leadership of our country and the Allied nations, they saved the world from darkness.
I sat in a seat that a paratrooper sat in before he jumped into Market Garden. I smelled the steel that flew through enemy fire in order to bring supplies to troops on the ground fighting. The spirits of Montana, Texas, California, and Arizona (to name a few) once again left their home state to fly into European territory — this time under much different skies.
I am humbled. And I am proud. I am proud to come from a country of heroes. As we walked the flight line with our hot dog lunch we passed by American Soldiers in their uniforms. Most with a combat patch on their right arm showing who they fought their war with. I think about the two wars that I fought in and how privileged I was to give my skill and my dedication to my country and my countrymen.
I think about Huston Riley - the man swimming to shore on D-Day in Robert Capa’s famous photograph - and how our wars are won by men and women. Men and women with names and families and friends and stories of their own. And how so many families will never truly know the real story of their loved ones last days. They will never know the love that they had for complete strangers and how they risked - and gave - their lives for a fellow Soldiers and their country. The story of the final chapter of these brave countrymen will be known only to them and the ghosts of the men who lived it too.
As I write this I am letting the tears flow now. They are not tears of sadness, but rather of pride. I love my country so much. I am proud of the men and women who wear the uniform. I am proud of the Americans who live in a way that makes dying for them worth it.
I am marking this anniversary on what was once enemy soil. For me this is profound. It is of course a different Germany than it was 75 years ago. And yet we are here because of what happened all those years ago. History defines us. History shapes the global narrative and our own personal stories. Today I taught my children a piece of that history, in a way that a 5-year old can understand. I tell him because he needs to know. His understanding of the past will shape the present and determine the future. I told him how the world came together to fight a war against evil and how we won. I told him that these planes carried brave heroes into war and he saw pictures of them with their parachutes and guns. He understands how his dad wears the same uniform, and I hope he understands one day how I did too.
A new generation of heroes are fighting wars today. The wars are completely different and also very much the same. To fight for your country is a burden and a privilege for a generation to hold. Thank God for the brave souls who change the world and make history. Your spirit lives on.