Seventy-five years ago this week, hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers huddled against the English weather, wondering when their units would go ashore at Normandy and what dangers awaited them there. They steeled themselves for the coming onslaught through prayer and by reflecting on a message they had received earlier from General Eisenhower: "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade ... . The eyes of the world are upon you."
Later that day, as the battle raged on the beaches of Normandy, President Roosevelt broadcast a prayer for the success of the D-Day invasion. "Almighty God," Roosevelt said, "Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith." Millions of Americans of all faiths joined the president in this heartfelt prayer.
With the prayers of the Free World behind them, Allied soldiers dealt the Nazis a crippling blow on D-Day, turning the tide of the war. The Normandy invasion was made possible by countless acts of bravery, as commemorated by movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day.
"You wonder where the strength comes from," one Arkansas veteran recounted many years later. "I guess from inside."
But the Normandy landing was also made possible by a team effort that mobilized the entire nation in service of a common goal. It required not only brave soldiers but a vast support network that extended across the Atlantic to the home front, where dock workers in New Orleans built Higgins boats to carry those troops, factory workers at the Springfield Armory built the rifles they clutched in their hands, and families in big cities and farmhouses prayed fervently for their safe return.
On every D-Day anniversary, which comes so soon after Memorial Day, we're reminded of the sacrifices our troops and military families have made for our freedom.
While D-Day was a stunning victory for America, it came with a steep price. Thousands of American soldiers never left those beaches. Thousands more carried wounds for the rest of their lives. D-Day veterans often recount how the surf that day ran red with blood.
We cannot repay the brave veterans who sacrificed so much for us, but we can do our best. Sometimes that means simply thanking a veteran for their service, as we do with special ceremonies on D-Day, Veterans Day, and other national holidays.
But sometimes we have an opportunity to do even more, by giving our troops the tools they need to fight the enemy and giving them the full honor and support they need during and after their service.
In the Senate, I fought to include in this year's defense spending bill several reforms that would help troops in Arkansas and their families.
One expands the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery so our state can keep its promise to veterans who choose to be buried alongside their brothers and sisters. Another allows Medal of Honor recipients and prisoners of war to be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, regardless of rank.
Other reforms help our military families by allowing home-school students to participate in local JROTC units, and allowing military spouses to transfer occupational licenses they've earned when they move from base to base.
These reforms will improve the lives of thousands of American troops and their families. More importantly, these reforms are signs of support for the men and women who don uniforms knowing they may be called to die for our freedom.
They show that Americans are "marching together to victory" as one people, just as we did on D-Day all those years ago.
Tom Cotton is the junior U.S. senator for the state of Arkansas.
Editorial on 06/07/2019