After months of deliberation and planning, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower was briefed by his top military advisers on the looming weather, the heavy tides and the small window of time for execution. With a few minutes of contemplation, he gave his renowned answer that set the end of World War II into motion: “Okay … we’ll go.” He then addressed his troops directly, saying, “You are about to embark on the Great Crusade … The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
What followed was the largest invasion by air, land and sea in history. This solemn morning is forever etched into our history as D-Day.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 American, British, and French soldiers crossed the English Channel and thrust themselves onto the northern shores of France. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers charged into the dense, smoke-covered cliffs with enemy artillery raining down upon them.
At an enormous cost and against frightening odds, Allied forces scaled to the tops of Normandy’s cliffs, and the Greatest Generation began the liberation of a continent. Less than a year later, the Second World War was over and freedom prevailed.
Recently, Nebraskans stood with nations around the world in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
I had the distinct privilege of joining President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators at Normandy American Cemetery in France to honor heroes on the historic occasion of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
We gathered at what President Trump described as “freedom’s altar” to pay tribute to members of the Greatest Generation from Nebraska and throughout our nation who “took their duty as their fate” on that day of triumph.
It was the honor of a lifetime to visit Normandy alongside over 150 of our nation’s veterans and honor our service members who fought against tyranny and genocide. I am proud of my father’s service in World War II, as well as two of my uncles who received Bronze Star citations for their service in the European Theater.
Nothing can prepare you for these sacred grounds of the Normandy American Cemetery. For me, I was moved by its peacefulness, and I was humbled by the overwhelming respect and gratitude felt by all for those heroes. With the sound of blue waves falling on the shoreline, the chaos of war has been replaced by rows of pristine, white marble crosses. The cemetery contains the graves of more than 9,000 Americans who gave their “last full measure of devotion” on D-Day. Nearby, the Wall of the Missing memorializes over 1,000 soldiers who are still known only to God.
As President George W. Bush noted on the 60th anniversary of D-Day, amid the canteens, diaries and helmets found on the coast were Bibles. “Our boys had carried in their pockets the book that brought into the world this message: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In turn, the men who took the cliffs on D-Day defined this message for generations of service members that followed.
May we never forget their incredible courage and the preciousness of human freedom. And may we continue to protect these lasting values that still unite us today.
God bless the United States of America.