Seventy years ago today, they fell from the sky in parachutes or shivered in landing craft approaching a hostile beach in Normandy, France. It was a place almost certainly most could not have found on a map before they were drafted or enlisted, but whose real estate was for those turbulent hours the most valuable on Earth.
Almost 2,500 Americans would die on that “Longest Day,” along with about 2,000 of their allies.
We need not describe here all that transpired on what was code-named Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold beaches. It has been well-documented in print and film.
It was D-Day, the sixth of June in 1944. The “D” stood simply for “day,” the day of the most massive amphibious invasion in history, the day the great democracies would begin to reclaim Europe from the most malevolent and despicable of occupiers.
For most of the almost 160,000 troops who crossed the English Channel, D-Day was not about politics or even freedom, it was about the shortest route home. The sooner the war was over, the sooner they could go back to their loved ones and resume the lives they had planned before the war.
As the allies progressed into the heart of Nazi Germany, lost on those beaches were arms and legs and eyes and … so many lives.
Time, of course, has taken its toll on those who were fortunate enough to survive “Operation Overlord.” A 21-year-old soldier who braved machine gun fire on a beach at Normandy would be at least 90 today if he is still alive. Their numbers are now counted in the hundreds rather than thousands.
Sadly, some survivors — along with many other veterans — have fallen victim to what is a morally indefensible situation regarding our Veterans Administration hospitals.
At least 19 veterans at VA hospitals and clinics have died because of delays in their receiving screenings for such procedures as colonoscopies or endoscopies, according to an internal document obtained by CNN from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Some facilities have been deemed filthy, and adequate care is lacking.