Are you worthy to stand on the shoulders of greatness?
75-years ago today this newspaper, that hangs in my office today, was hot off the press in suburban Detroit.
Its crisp pages blared a siren that had been expected for a long time. The invasion of France had begun. The untested US troops were hurled against the war-hardened German army. It was the beginning of the end of World War II, but just the beginning. Many more battles would be fought. Many more young lives would be lost on foreign soil.
This paper captures the events of the day as best they could. It was released as an Extra Edition, meaning the events were still unfolding as the paper went to press. At that time there was no CNN, no Fox News. There was no 24-hour coverage. There were no “experts” filling in time while the details came in. In fact if you read the stories, the content was mostly filled with German news sources and not Allied sources. Yes, General Eisenhower confirmed the invasion, but there was not a lot of information to be told.
Having spent many years as a news reporter, I am still a news junkie. I read the news of today, but also read books that captured the news of history. In fact I’m currently reading a book about WWII told through the narration of a German officer.
Unfortunately humanity has a tendency to mark time by its wars. There’s never a lack of wars to fill in our timeline. I was born after WWII and during the Korean War. My children were born during the Afghan War. It’s really a sad way to measure the passage of time.
At the same time, it seems to be the right thing to do. It seems we should be honoring those who put their personal lives on hold in service to their country. We do that during the TC Patriot Game in Traverse City. We honor our Veterans, active duty military, first responders and especially those who have died in service. Up close you see tears form in the eyes of Veterans when over 10,000 people cheer them on and give a heart-felt “Thank You.”
I have never intimately known the sacrifice of Veterans and their families. My career never took me to war. I missed the Vietnam draft by a single month.
When we mark the 75thanniversary of such an important event like D-Day, you have to appreciate an entire generation of young people that volunteered to go off to war. They volunteered when the odds seems stacked against them. They volunteered when there was no expectation they would ever return. They volunteered when America was not a big, bad military power. They volunteered when there was a good chance we would lose the war.
Tom Brokow’s labeled these people as “The Greatest Generation” in his book. He gave them that title not only for heading off to war, but for coming back and building a strong economy and democracy.
My generation, and the generations that are following me are, standing on the shoulders of the greatest generation. Very few of these great people are still alive today.
But the lesson for today, is that we must never forget what makes us great. Every one of us can appreciate that the D-Day generation got involved in something bigger than them. They accomplished what many thought could never be accomplished. They freed countries from oppression. They opened the gates of concentration camps. They rebuilt Europe.
Our goals don’t have to be to free a country or concentration camps. But we can all strive to accomplish something that others feel we will never accomplish. If we fail, we can try again. We can deserve to stand on the shoulders of the Greatest Generation if we set our sights on something greater than us.