The Senate is reaching the end of an era: There are no World War II veterans serving in Congress' upper chamber. Daniel Doherty reports for Townhall Magazine.
On June 6, 1984, 40 years to the day after Allied expeditionary forces stormed the beaches and cliffs of Normandy, President Ronald Reagan delivered his famous oration at Pointe du Hoc. It was a solemn and somber occasion - D-Day veterans and their families were in attendance - but it was also a day of quiet celebration for what these extraordinary men accomplished. Reagan, for his part, addressed an inescapable question: Why did so many young Americans risk their lives to liberate continental Europe from the shackles of Nazi oppression and tyranny?
"Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here," he said that calm and cloudy day in France. "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."
Words cannot adequately express the bravery and selflessness of America's World War II generation - some of whom fought on the beaches of Normandy, and all of whom helped win that war. It is a testament to their courage and character that, despite heavy casualties and immense suffering, they never faltered or wavered. Thus there can be little doubt that posterity owes this generation of Americans - the "Greatest Generation," as journalist Tom Brokaw christened them - a debt that can never fully be realized, let alone repaid. And yet it is our obligation, as a nation of grateful citizens, to honor and remember what they did.
Of course, it's not unusual for people to romanticize wars - especially armed conflicts fought for "just" and "moral" reasons. But we do so at our peril; more than 400,000 American service members lost their lives during the war, and according to the United States Navy Department Library, more than 670,000 were wounded. The lucky ones - that is to say, those who returned home victorious - were irrevocably changed and affected by what they saw. Nonetheless, many went on to have successful, albeit relatively peaceful and quiet, lives. Others, of course, went on to serve in public life.
THE END OF AN ERA
The passing of Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey on June 3, 2013, marked a seminal moment in American history: for the first time since the end of the protracted and sanguinary conflict, a World War II veteran no longer occupied a seat in the United States Senate. The late senator from the New Jersey was, so to speak, the last of his kind.