75 Years After D-Day: What Millennials Can Learn From WWII Veterans

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Thursday, June 6, 2019


There’s a certain way of thinking about older generations that prevails amongst my peers: “society will become much more progressive with each passing generation.” At face value, this is a pretty inoffensive statement; civil equality is one example. However, if you tear off the veneer of euphemisms and dig a little deeper, you’ll uncover how they actually feel. In essence, they believe “the world will be a better place once all of the old people die.”

I hardly think this sentiment is unique. Every generation has to wait impatiently for its turn to be the vanguard that leads society into unknown territories and uncharted waters. What I do find unique about my generation’s perspective is their righteous indignation for our founding fathers, the greatest generation, and every generation in between despite being woefully ignorant to prior generations’ experiences.

Take a recent Claims Conference survey as an example, which found more than one fifth—twenty-two percent—of millennials in the United States believe they haven’t heard of the Holocaust. This figure doubles the percentage of US adults as a whole who have not or do not believe they have heard of the Holocaust. Furthermore, 41% of millennials believe two million or fewer Jewish people died in the Holocaust; two-thirds were unable to recount what occurred at Auschwitz.    

If we are able to recognize our generation’s glaring and abundant shortcomings instead of brushing them off as invalid critiques from men clinging to their glory days, we retain the opportunity to learn from a generation that epitomizes the American way of life. What better day to start that project than today, the 75th anniversary of D-Day?

The invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord, was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. It involved 175,000 men that disembarked on the beaches from 5,333 Allied landing craft and ships, as well as 20,000 airborne paratroopers and about 8,000 aircraft.

With the Germans well-anticipating an Allied assault, defensive ramparts were heavily manned and fortified with machine guns; the hard-fought victory came at enormous costs. After years of extensive research, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation verified 4,414 Allied deaths within the 24 hours after D-Day. Some estimates say fatalities number upwards of five thousand to accompany the ten thousand plus Allied casualties suffered on the few hundred meters of cay turned killing field. Nevertheless, from Normandy’s beaches, America, alongside the British and Canadians, would launch a campaign that would free Western Europe from fascism’s chokehold eleven months later.

Canada and the United States lost 45,400 and 416,800 members of the armed forces, respectively, among the 40,000,000 battle casualties suffered over the course of the war.

The United Kingdom lost a total of 450,700 soldiers and civilians on the battlefield and during the bombing of London. The sheer amount of devastation caused by fascism, and then the ensuing effort to purge the world of that domineering ideology, is almost incomprehensible to someone who hasn’t lived through it.

That being said, lucky is not a serious enough word to encapsulate just how privileged we are to live in a time when we have the opportunity to live alongside men who descended on those beaches at daybreak seventy-five years ago, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and her noble causes.

Millennials are known as a generation preoccupied with social media interactions and concerned with social awareness, which aren’t inherently negative attributes. However, our generation’s purpose can be enhanced by achieving a better understanding of personal responsibility, duty, respect, faith, and other characteristics that guided our great-grandparents’ generation in their daily lives and ultimately to collective greatness. When asked, they’ll tell you why it’s important to work for what you earn, vote in every election, and go to church every Sunday.

With each passing year, fewer and fewer of these distinguished veterans comprise the attendees of memorial services and celebratory festivities. While some millennials eschew interactions with older people they’ve labeled as bygone relics, I believe most of us should feel a sense of duty as Americans, as members of the most prosperous and freest society the world has ever known, to connect with these old souls that selflessly protected our way of life and tap into their knowledge so that someday we might be considered the second greatest generation.

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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