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Earlier this month, sixty years prior, the Allied Forces succeeded in the largest seaborne invasion in world history. This operation led to the establishment of five Allied beachheads from which a free Europe was restored. The operation entailed 156,800 Allied troops, mostly British and American, 10,000 of whom gave their lives on that day. That day, known today as “D-Day,” serves as a symbol of the forces of good fighting to preserve democracy.
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s easy to forget about the military legacies of our past and the sacrifices that our forefathers endured. Part of this is due to the modern nature of war, when conflicts are often fought from afar with missiles, drones, and various other equipment. It’s understandably easy not to see our military personnel’s struggle and sacrifice, given the lack of images of tank battles and close combat we had in the past.
Additionally, the general security of American life makes it easy to ignore the work done by the branches of the United States military. We live in an era where there is really not overarching worry over security. This is not the tenuous post World War peace nor is it the Cold War era with its constant nuclear threat. Though we are in an age of terrorism, our country has been kept safe since the 9/11 attacks. In other areas around the world, simple acts such as going to a coffee shop, a sports match, or the store can be met with death and disaster. The stories are on the news almost every week. However, Americans are fortunate to live a fairly free and secure lifestyle thanks to the tireless efforts of our men and women in the military.
The modern United State military consists of 1,369,532 active personnel and 850,880 reserve servicemen and women. These are the second and tenth largest forces in the world respectively. The largest branch is the army with approximately 540,000 followed by the air force with 333,000, the navy with 317,000, the marines with 200,000, and the coast guard with 42,000. Military personnel are stationed in 150 different countries throughout the world in addition to those stationed at domestic bases and the approximately 84,000 troops deployed on naval ships.
These men and women dedicate a significant portion of their lives to protect American interests. Sometimes they give their entire life. 4,486 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq between the 2003 invasion and the 2012 withdrawal. In Afghanistan, 2,334 troops have given the ultimate sacrifice since 2001. Each of these troops leaves behind a grieving family so that Americans can enjoy the freedom of democracy, safety, and security. Additionally, thousands more troops have sustained significant injuries in recent conflicts ranging from psychological issues to physical trauma. Their lives are forever changed.
So today, please take time to pause at some point in your day and consider the many benefits of the lives that we lead and the things that we take for granted. While freedom may certainly feel free, it comes at a high price. That price is absorbed by the men and women that serve in our armed forces. Think about the revolutionaries that established our country based upon principles of individual liberty and equality. Think about those brave men who stormed the beaches of France to fight back against the tyranny of fascism. Think about your friends and family members that currently or previously served. Think about all the men and women who give their all on a daily basis to protect the homeland. Stop, think, and maybe offer an occasional thank you to the military personnel that you pass by.
“Freedom” isn’t free. I would like to remember our brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in preservation of our freedom. How we can best honor them through our “increased awareness” to the cause of liberty for which they died and how they will live. They fought for us and now we need to fight for them, because they are one of the main reasons for our prosperity and successes as a nation.
[VN: I loved this band when I was 8 or 9 - Up With People / SingOut / Nixon's Campaign for Moral Re-Armament!]