Yesterday as I listened to excerpts from President Trump’s speech, when he addressed the World War II veterans who had stormed the beaches of Normandy in the face of incessant machine gun fire and artillery barrages that colored miles of surf with their blood, as he singled out individuals, who – now in their nineties – had returned to the scene of the bloodiest day of WWII to pay respect to their fallen brothers and renew acquaintances with the few who had survived the seven decades since “The Longest Day," I found my eyes becoming misty and my thoughts returning to that day, June 6, 1944, when the Methodist Church in Valdosta, Georgia was packed to the rafters with Americans of every stripe, who had come to beseech Almighty God on behalf of the brave men fighting and dying on a beachhead thousands of miles away.
They were called the Greatest Generation, and I truly believe that a greater generation of Americans never lived.
These brave ones knew what they were going into. They knew as they boarded the landing craft that many of their comrades who rode shoulder to shoulder would not live through the day, and the chances were that they would not live through the day either.
Yet, on they came, wave after wave, wading ashore into an unceasing hail of bullets, fighting their way inland, inch by murderous inch, facing sudden death every step of the way.
D-Day and the preceding battle would be the costliest campaign in WWII. Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This included over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces.
There were over 10,000 allied casualties on D-Day alone, making it the bloodiest day of the whole war.
When you look at these men, now wizened with age, wearing bits of uniforms and medals, walking on canes, being moved in wheelchairs, it’s hard to equate them with the teenagers who waded through waist-deep surf, pulling their wounded brothers along with them, knowing that even after making it to the beach, there would be many miles of heavy Nazi resistance that blocked the way to their ultimate goal – Berlin and the total destruction of Hitler, his war machine and every evil thing he stood for.
Many of the aged heroes who attended the ceremony in Normandy know this will be their last trip, that they’ll never again walk the sandy beaches and remember that morning when they were the focal point of American hope, American prayer, American victory.
Back then, they were the point of the spear, the vanguard of freedom, knowing that America and the world depended on them, that the outcome of the war against fascism and dictatorship was on their shoulders, that they had been tasked with taking a beachhead that was the gateway to victory and that failure was not acceptable.
I wonder what went through the minds of these men as they walked through the gravestones at Flanders Field, as they wandered along the beach remembering the location where a buddy had fallen, as they looked at the cliffs where Nazi artillery emplacements thundered, as they remember breaking through enemy lines and realizing that they had been successful and they had the Nazis on the run.
I have no way and no words to adequately express the gratitude I feel for these men because I remember the casualty reports, the newsreels, the pictures in newspapers and magazines, the horror of war in stark black and white that made a lifelong impression on me and seeded an everlasting patriotism and a sense of the price these men paid for my freedom.
So, on this D-Day weekend, it is with humility, unceasing gratitude, respect and admiration that I salute the men and women of the United States military – past, present and future.
And I thank Almighty God that there are American patriots who hear and answer the call to serve and defend this most blessed of nations.
I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands
One Nation, under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police and the peace of Jerusalem.
God Bless America
— Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels is a legendary American singer, song writer, guitarist, and fiddler famous for his contributions to country and southern rock music. Daniels has been active as a singer since the early 1950s. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on January 24, 2008.