They Gave Their Tomorrow

As we observe Memorial Day, my thoughts go back to a trip my wife and I took. Two years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to Europe with a group from the Warrior Poet Society. The tour was World War 2-themed, so we visited many monuments and battlefields. Normandy, Bastogne, Dunkirk, Pointe du Hoc and others. As a veteran, it was powerful to stand there and think about those days and nights.

Saint Mere-Eglise

One of the places we visited was the village of Saint Mere-Eglise in France. Many paratroopers from the 101st Airborne landed in and around the town on the night of June 5. It had a strategic importance because of the roads around it. One of the notable things that happened there was when a paratrooper, John Steele, got caught on the spire of the church. Steele hung there for hours, wounded and unable to free himself. He was briefly captured, escaped and rejoined his unit.

Saint Mere-Eglise remembers what happened in June 1944. A mannequin in uniform hangs on the Church of St. Mary. A stained glass window in the church commemorates the airborne units that fought in the area.

The nearby Airborne Museum documents the events that happened, and the valor displayed. The coat of arms from this 11th-century village was changed to show the events of that night.

People Remember

The cynical among us will see it as just wanting to cash in on what happened and to make a buck, but I do not. As we drove through the area, we saw American and British flags displayed at private homes. Just regular people who weren’t selling anything. We saw banners lining the streets commemorating individual soldiers who had fought to liberate the area. 80 years later, people are still thankful. Family members who weren’t even alive in 1944 still make regular trips to the cemeteries to make sure the graves of our fallen are attended to. Generational gratitude.

One of the things that struck me most was an inscription on the Airborne Memorial in the town square of Saint Mere-Eglise. The picture may not be the best, but the words are powerful:

“They Gave Their Tomorrow For Our Today”

Let that sink in. Ordinary men traveled to a place they’d never been and fought to free people they’d never met because it was the right thing to do.

As I visited the American Cemetery in Normandy, then in Luxembourg, I looked at acres and acres of perfectly aligned white crosses and Stars of David. Thousands of them. At each monument I went to, the words “They gave their tomorrow…” rang in my head.

And You?

I am left wondering if those men who gave up their tomorrow saw us now, what would they think? America is a fractured, divided and angry place in 2024. We have been better. We can be better. Most importantly, We must do better.

As we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to pause and not just remember those who gave up their tomorrow for your today, but ask how you, as an individual, can help make this country worthy of their sacrifice. Not your party or your chosen candidate. You. If we all start there, we may begin to see some change.

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