On Tuesday, June 6th, 1944, at 0630, Allied forces began what would hold up as the largest amphibious military assault in history. Over the next several days, 175,000 Allied soldiers (approximately 89,000 American, 61,000 British, and 25,000 Canadian soldiers) stormed entrenched German coastal defenses held by 380,000 german defenders, during wind and high seas that made air support and naval landings problematic. The casualties among the first waves of landings were horrific, and the battles long and protracted, but by the end of D-Day, allied forces had captured their objectives at Juno Beach. The other landing sites would take longer, but were also ultimately successful. Not to be overlooked (as we tend to do), are the efforts of the French Resistance, whose intelligence helped make D-Day possible, and heroic acts of sabotage made German counter-attacks far weaker than they would otherwise have been.
One day has become symbolic in our minds for the sacrifices of so many over the last century. The soldiers that have given their lives for freedom in those conflicts were products of a society that I doubt would show the same mettle if pressed to do so today. We make the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq sound like great conflicts and our losses there devastating, but that one day in World War 2 cost almost as many allied lives as 7 years in those places. We don't know what it is to sacrifice or fight anymore.I leave you with a poem from a WWI Canadian soldier that nearly every Canadian can recite parts of by rote.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)
On November 11th every year, you will see nearly every Canadian wearing a little poppy pin on in rememberance of those who gave everything to make the world safer for the rest of us. Before you ever consider trading away even one of our individual freedoms, even the seemingly least significant of them, for any reason at all, think on how many died for us to have them.