War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.
J.R.R. Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings
Today, June 6th marks the 75th anniversary of what has come to be known as D-Day, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France. The effort included an armada of 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 other ships, and 500 naval vessels—escorts and bombardment ships, accompanied by 822 aircraft, carrying parachutists or towing gliders, all focused on the Normandy landing zones. They were a fraction of the air armada of 13,000 aircraft that would support D-Day.
The resulting victory came at a high cost: more than 200,000 dead, wounded and missing from the Allied armies, more than 300,000 from the German. French civilian losses numbered more than 12,000.
G.K. Chesterton said
The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.
This is true on many levels. A soldier will tell you that he is loyal to his country, but in the heat of battle, he’s fighting for his buddies. When war is raging around you, peace is not an abstract concept. Our county is not free because wise men wrote brilliant words on perishable paper. We are free today because thousands of men and women have been willing to lay down their own lives for us.
They deserve our thanks and unending gratitude. Foremost, they deserve the respect we pay by the virtuous lives we live as free men and women.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.