I’m a veteran.
I’ve inhaled the smoke of battle and experienced the woes of war. I know the bonds that only the cries of combat can create and the pain of losing my brothers. And D-Day? It impacts me in a very personal way.
Before D-day was a “holiday,” it existed purely as a military term. There have been lots of D-days in history—the day a military operation or invasion is scheduled to begin. But in our hearts and minds, there is really only one D-Day. When we hear that term, we’re drawn to June 6, 1944, and the beaches of Normandy, France.
On that day, 130,000 Allied soldiers crossed the English channel toward the Normandy coast, ready to execute the largest amphibious landing in history. The target? Five beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The objective? To establish a presence on the interior that would open the door for reinforcements scheduled in the following days. The hard part? Resisting the counterattack that was sure to come.
The landing, code name Operation Overlord, took two years of planning, training, and logistical support, coordinated by the United States and Great Britain. And on June 5, 1944, all that planning moved into action as General Eisenhower gave the “go ahead” order. That morning, 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 ships, and 500 naval vessels departed English ports to cross the channel toward the German-controlled beaches. Later that night, under the cover of darkness, 822 aircraft dropped paratroopers over carefully chosen landing zones in Normandy. The seaborn units, having departed England the morning before, began to land on the beaches at 6:30 a.m. the following morning. It was June 6—and D-Day had begun.
As the amphibious crafts landed and the soldiers debarked, all hell broke loose. Some were shot before their boots hit the beach. Others were overtaken by the weight of their battle gear, the pull of the ocean, and drowned before making landfall. And, despite the chaos, others set their feet on enemy territory, taking back what had been wrongly taken.
Those beaches came at a steep price. As the sun set on D-Day, Allied casualties surpassed 10,000 killed, wounded or missing in action, including 6,603 Americans.
Today, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the world turns to pay tribute to the men that gave their lives. We rightfully celebrate the courage, the love, and the spirit that drove them forward against impossible odds.
Over the first weekend of June, Crossroads Church hosted its first Veteran Camp for men. Gathered on that property was a combined 661 years of service to God and country.
I have been in a lot of battles. Some I barely remember, others I will never forget. But the battles that these men volunteered to fight at Veteran Camp, will be remembered forever. Men came against addiction, wrestled with memories of war, and mourned their lost brothers. We stood shoulder to shoulder and left no one behind. We put our boots in the water, stormed our own beaches, and together, began to take ground back from the enemy. It was our own D-day.
This D-Day, remember to look backward, to the beaches of Normandy and those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. But don’t neglect to look forward either, energized by the valor of those that have come before, recommitting yourself to the fight you are in.
The victory goes to those who are in the battle—what beach is God calling you to storm? To fight for your marriage? To reconnect with your children? To forgive that person who so badly wounded you? Today, more than any other, is a day to get off the boat. Find a brother or sister, a fellow warrior, to storm the beach alongside you. Get in the fight and find the relationships, community, and freedom that only the battlefield can bring!
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.