President Ronald Reagan on June 6th 1984 stood on the northern coast of France where Allied soldiers had stormed ashore to liberate Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny. In one of his most memorable speeches, which I believe every American should hear often, spoke these words to an audience of D-Day veterans and world leaders. “Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.” The boys, the men… did you catch his words?
This mission was planned for May 1944 but was delayed until June due to lack of landing craft. Operation Overlord paved the for not only the liberation of Europe, but ultimately the end of World War 2. History tells us that weather conditions almost delayed the operation, but Commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force General Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to proceed
During World War 1, GI was interpreted as “government Issue” or “general issue.” The prevalence of the term led soldiers in World War II to start referring to themselves as GIs. Some servicemen used it as a sarcastic reference symbolizing the belief that they were just mass-produced products of the government. During the war, GI Joe also became a term for US soldiers. This from Elizabeth Nix from History.com who also related that it was cartoonist Dave Breger, who was drafted into the Army in 1941, who is credited with coining the name with his comic strip titled GI Joe, which he published weekly in a military magazine called Yank, beginning in 1942. These were our GI Joe’s who stormed those beaches.
In a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, used a phrase referring to the Royal Air Force and their bravery displayed in the Battle of Great Britain. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” I should like to borrow the esteemed Prime Ministers line and apply it to the American Soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago this week. Boys and men who were the embodiment G.K. Chesterton’s words, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
President Reagan further said in his speech, “Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? 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? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love…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. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”
John Wesley said: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Let us not only remember on this occasion those who have served and sacrificed for us, but let us leave a lasting legacy for those who will follow in our footsteps.
President Lincoln reminded us on another battlefield, “through their deeds, the dead of battle have spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could. But we can only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they gave a last full measure of devotion.” Freedom always costs someone something. Freedom is never free. There is always a price that must be paid. May we always remember the price these brave boys and men were willing to pay. And may we find within ourselves to courage and resolve to pay the price so that freedom might be enjoyed for generations to come.
We will never forget those boy’s, those men. We will remember and we will share their stories of heroism and courage. Most importantly, inspired by their love for God and country, we will stand strong for liberty’s cause.
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.