Sunday November 23, 2014

D-Day: 70 years and counting


View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Randy Brenzen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: The legacy of D-Day.

A step further

The 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings has come and gone, but the sacrifice that the soldiers made will never be forgotten.

To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s the 70th anniversary or the 83rd anniversary, the D-Day landings should be honoured and respected equally, each and every year on June 6.

But I think people should try to take their honouring of the day a step further. I believe that everyone should, some way, some how, find a way to get over to Corseulles-Sur-Mer, Normandy, France, visit the Juno Beach Centre and visit the graves of the fallen soldiers in many (too many) of the war cemeteries.

As someone who has had the honour to walk across Juno Beach and visit the centre in Courseulles-Sur-Mer (on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2011) it’s truly something that everyone should have a chance to do. It’s inspiring and humbling at the same time (I actually ferried across the English Channel and made the same trip at the same time of day as the soldiers did).

I also believe that June 6 should be a National holiday where everything is shut down. Bars, restaurants, gas stations, shopping centres, everything.

No one should have to work. Instead, they should have to remember the soldiers, light a candle for a fallen family member of ages past and show appreciation for what they have done.

Because they are watching us. Lest we forget.

— Randy Brenzen

Taking up the torch

The Invasion of Normandy, and in particular the attack of Canadian troops upon German defences at Juno Beach should be something every Canadian is aware of in terms of our history, and Canada’s important role in the Second World War.

Juno or Juno Beach was one of five beaches of the Allied invasion of German occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during the Second World War. The beach spanned from the village of Courseulles-sur-Mer some eight kilometres to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer.

On that beach, 70 years ago hundreds of young Canadians were wounded, or died, in a fight they all believed in.

The soldiers of Canada were all volunteers. They saw the tyranny of Hitler and Germany as something which threatened the entire world, and it did. The war would see every continent except Antarctica involved, as the free world raised up against the threat of tyranny imposed by Germany and Japan.

Few veterans remain from the battle for Juno. Even at 18, as many may have been, they would now be 88, but that does not mean the rest of us should ever let their effort and sacrifice go unremembered.

In fact, as our veterans pass, it is us, who must take up the torch as they say, to remember always what happened in the great wars of our past, and with some luck, and common sense we will not let our world fall back into such a conflict again.

There were of course a hundred battles of note in the war, a hundred places where Canadians died for a greater cause, but none were more significant than the one at Normandy where Canadian blood soaked the sands of Juno Beach helping the Allies gain a foothold in Europe and begin the push to Berlin and the end of the war.

With pride, humility, a sense of loss and of achievement, may we always honour those efforts.

— Calvin Daniels

Emerging nation

In 12 years of the conflict in Afghanistan, 158 Canadian soldiers were killed in the line of duty. On June 6, 1944, we lost two-and-half times that number in single day.

There is something eerily compelling about D-Day even 70 years later. The images of fresh-faced youths stumbling over the blood-soaked bodies of their fallen comrades as a hail of machine gun fire and artillery cut down the advancing forces of righteousness are indelibly imprinted in the imagination of even the most casual observer of movies and television.

If it had not been for the shocking events being played out on the streets of Moncton, New Brunswick on Friday, the anniversary of the now seven decades old beginning of the Allied invasion of Europe would have been the lead story in every newspaper and on every TV news broadcast in the country.

It is not just the horrendous casualty rate that gives the story legs after all this time, though. It was probably the last time, at least in the Euro-North American experience, that war was seen as a noble and glorious endeavour. I am sure that was no more comfort to the mothers, wives and children of the fallen then than it is now, but from a collective consciousness perspective, it was likely the last time we felt truly right and moral about the pursuit of (non-peacekeeping) military objectives.

That is not to suggest in any way that we do not today support the troops themselves any less.

It was also the last time that the overwhelming force employed for such purposes was flesh and blood.

Finally, it is interesting to note that D-Day did not mark the end of the war in Europe. That would not come until almost a year later, on May 8, 1945. The war lingered for another three months after that in the Pacific theatre.

But D-Day sticks with us as the turning point in a just cause, as an eternal reminder of the horror of war, and, for Canadians, as a beacon of a sovereign nation emerging from its colonial hinterland.

— Thom Barker



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