When the Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in northern France, it marked a pivotal turning point in World War II — overwhelmed by the invasion, Nazi forces retreated back to the Seine River, and the Allies accepted their official surrender less than a year later.
Officially, the invasion was called “Operation Overlord,” but most people refer to this incredibly consequential battle as “D-Day” or the “Battle of Normandy.” Today, D-Day is remembered and observed in many of the ally nations, including the United States, United Kingdom and France.
D-Day is observed not only because it kicked-started the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi control, but because on that day, more than 4,400 allied troops lost their lives. Of those, it’s estimated that 2,501 were American soldiers, and 1,913 were soldiers from other allied nations.
Today, on June 6, 2021, we observe the 77th anniversary of D-Day.
Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers
With both Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day just passed, D-Day offers Americans another opportunity to pay their respects to fallen troops. The day of remembrance can also serve as a simple reminder of just how much the men and women of the Armed Forces sacrifice.
While D-Day has proven to be one of the most consequential military operations of the 20th century, American troops have since fought hundreds of battles since World War II. When soldiers become veterans, they often carry battle wounds — both physical and mental — with them as they return to civilian life. Many veterans continue to fight battles long after their combat days are over.
It’s during this transition period when American civilians can offer their heartfelt support for veterans. According to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), veterans suffer from a number of different ailments, including:
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Traumatic brain injury
- Chronic pain
- Exposure to hazardous substances
Some ailments, like the deadly cancer known as mesothelioma, disproportionately impact U.S. veterans. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure. Throughout much of the 20th century, including during WWII, the U.S. military used asbestos-containing products to help build ships, bases and vehicles. As a result, tens of thousands of soldiers were exposed to asbestos.
Today, around 30% of all new mesothelioma cases belong to veterans and those who worked on or near naval shipyards.
Paying Tribute to Our Soldiers on D-Day
Today in the United States, some 77 years after the Allied troops’ invasion of Normandy, D-Day is an observance day. So while it is neither a federally recognized holiday nor a day off from work, the significance of the day is still observed across the country at the local, state and national level.
Many Americans choose to observe D-Day by visiting local memorials, museums and ceremonies that pay tribute to our country’s veterans. In the United States, there are several states that have memorials and museums dedicated specifically to D-Day. In Bedford, Virginia, for example, the National D-Day Memorial serves as our nation’s memorial for American D-Day veterans.
Still, other Americans choose to observe D-Day by learning more about the history of the events surrounding the Battle of Normandy by reading books or watching movies and TV shows, such as Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.
However you choose to observe D-Day, be sure to consider all of the veterans who have made sacrifices so that we can keep the freedoms that we all hold dear. Without the sacrifices made by American and Allied soldiers on D-Day, we may well be living in an entirely different world.