The following editorial is reproduced by permission
of the author and the Ronald Reagan Library Foundation. The Reagan Library
Foundation is an excellent source for hard-to-find and limited-edition items and
information on (IMHO) The Greatest President. Give them a visit, you won't be
Ronald Reagan Helped Us Remember - And Never Forget - The
Soldiers of D-Day
By Mark Burson
Today is one of those rare occasions when the number on the
calendar jumps off the page. That is because June 6th is
one of the few dates instantaneously known to the American
True, most Americans today can't identify the day Nazi
Germany surrendered (VE-Day - May 7, 1945) or the day
marking Japan's surrender and the end of World War II
(VJ-Day - September 2, 1945). But they know June 6th
because D-Day is truly etched in America's consciousness.
On this day 57 years ago - in what was the largest air,
land, and sea invasion ever undertaken - more than 5,000
ships, 10,000 airplanes, and 250,000 servicemen and
servicewomen stormed the windswept Normandy Coast on the
Northern Shore of France and carried out the decisive battle
that would smash Hitler's Nazi Germany.
More than 6,600 Americans lost their lives that day,
fighting and dying in a place that many of them had never
seen, in a country they had never visited, defending a
continent of people they did not know.
What words could summon an appropriate tribute to the
soldiers of this selfless act? Not many, and not easily
articulated to be sure, which makes Ronald Reagan's speech
17 years ago today all the more remarkable.
On the 40th Anniversary of the Normandy invasion, President
Reagan traveled to the site of this most famous battle and
afforded us the rare opportunity to relive a moment gone by,
appreciate its relevance to the present, and consider its
lasting impact on the brighter future it helped to achieve.
Even after the passage of four decades, many questions were
yet to be asked and answered at Normandy, specifically of
the Army Rangers who literally climbed rock and crag to
neutralize massive artillery guns that surely could have
helped repulse the invasion itself. Ronald Reagan took up
"Why? Why did you do it?" he asked. "What impelled you to
put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your
lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the
armies that met here?"
As I think no American has before or since, Ronald Reagan
helped us to understand the scope of the act and the spirit
of its actors:
"We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was
faith, and belief; it was loyalty and love."
This was more than a speech, more than reminiscence, more
than stirring recall of a great event gone by. This was
Ronald Reagan considering an indelible chapter of the
American experience and helping us to understand it,
appreciate it, and place it into its true and just context.
This was certainly not the first nor last time that Ronald
Reagan did us this great favor. But it may have been the
occasion where his rhetorical flourish and majestic delivery
were most perfectly matched by the magnitude of the moment.
On that day, Ronald Reagan compelled us to consider and
appreciate what makes us most special as Americans (that
"experiment in history" as he was fond of referring to this
country) and remember what we must never forget:
"You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's
country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying
for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of
government ever devised by man."
In honoring the heroes of that day, and memorializing their
fallen comrades, Ronald Reagan moved us to grasp two vital
principles very much alive in him when he delivered his
stirring words: Global Democracy and National Pride.
That is why at the entrance of the Library that bears Ronald
Reagan's name and houses his life's work stand four concrete
pillars that we believe capture his strongest beliefs and
represent a lasting tribute to the man. We call them the
"Four Pillars of Freedom" - Individual Liberty, Economic
Opportunity, Global Democracy and National Pride.
I understand that no stone structure or displayed words can
fully translate all that the 40th President means to his
fellow Americans or to the world. But I believe what we at
the Library are charged with is nothing less than the
unfinished work of Ronald Reagan.
In that solemn duty and responsibility, we are compelled to
ensure that others know, learn, remember and regard his
So, on this day, we pay special tribute to the boys of
Pointe de Hoc and the men of D-Day, as well as to the man
who helped us to honor and appreciate them, as they so
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