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June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of the day 160,000 troops redefined what it meant to be courageous
When walking into any quick-service restaurant during lunch hour on any given day in Fayetteville or Fort Bragg, N.C., seas of camouflage will immediately stand out — and no, it is not because of the pervading Duck Dynasty theme of recent months. The camouflage belongs to the men and women who courageously serve as members of the U.S. Army.
Fort Bragg, which is adjacent to Fayetteville, is home to the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps. More than 57,000 military personnel are currently stationed at Fort Bragg, making it one of the largest military complexes by population in the world, according to the base’s official website.
Because I have lived in Fayetteville my entire life, seeing men and women in army combat uniforms around town is not an odd occurrence. For as long as I can remember, many of my classmates had parents, siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles in the military, and a number of those family members have endured multiple deployments.
In Fayetteville, when past and present military members are honored at special events such as ballgames or school productions, it is safe to say that at least 70 percent of the audience stands to receive recognition for their sacrifices.
My friend’s father is currently one of the highest-ranking soldiers in the nation as a four-star commanding general at Fort Bragg. He has done his fair share to earn his title and accolades, but much more lies beneath the surface of the title. What many do not see are the sacrifices and trials he has had to endure as a soldier. Among many other duties, he has put himself in harm’s way and left his wife, daughter and son at home as he was deployed to other nations. During his decades of services, he has been deployed six different times to locations such as Egypt, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to forscom.army.mil.
Above many other factors, it is his unwavering commitment to protecting the freedom of the U.S. that has helped my friend’s father, Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, to earn his current four-star rank and position of commanding general of Forces Command at Fort Bragg.
Although Allyn may currently be one of the most decorated soldiers in the country, his commitment and sacrifices are not characteristics and actions portrayed exclusively by him. They are displayed by each and every military member.
These ideals were displayed by soldiers on one day more acutely, perhaps, than any other day in history. It is a day that has shaped the past and the present and has since been remembered most for soldiers who showed no hesitation, only valor. That day is June 6, 1944 — D-Day.
On that day 160,000 Allied troops, led by the U.S., landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, during World War II in an attempt to liberate Europe from Nazi rule, according to army.mil. But this was no normal military operation. On this day, thousands of soldiers went into the operation without pause. Despite knowing they may not make it through the assault, D-Day soldiers gallantly entered this part of the war in order to bring peace and justice to the world.
Some soldiers jumped behind enemy lines to secure surrounding areas, while some went into combat against a strong entrenched German army, according to army.mil. No matter their particular jobs, though, all of the soldiers involved in D-Day displayed amazing courage. Not knowing what exactly they would encounter and facing the possibility of death, the soldiers became the epitome of sacrifice as they went to battle for the sake of others. Although the cost was high, with thousands of deaths among Allied soldiers, the attack gave the Allies a foothold in Nazi-controlled Europe.
While there were several divisions involved in the D-Day operation, I am drawn in most by the story of the soldiers of Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division. According to army.mil, the division was one of two U.S. airborne divisions to take part in the assault, and paratroopers sacrificed themselves by jumping behind enemy lines to secure Utah Beach.
Allyn, who has served two tours of duty with the 82nd as a paratrooper and was previously the commanding general of Fort Bragg and the XVIII Airborne Corps, explained that the actions of the 82nd on that day have lasting implications and significance.
“I think for anyone that’s been a paratrooper, that’s where we proved the airborne concept with the operations in World War II, and we have continued to leverage that capability in multiple conflicts,” Allyn said. “We understand that we owe a great (debt to) … the soldiers that fought in World War II. And we continue to live up to that lineage and continue to honor those that have fought before us.”
With the 70th anniversary of D-Day less than two months away, Allyn said that June 6, 2014, is a particularly important day of remembrance for soldiers, both past and present.
“I think for the entire division, each anniversary of D-Day reminds (us) of our roots,” Allyn said. “… I think all of us veterans recognize the significance of enabling the country to pay honor to our World War II veterans, and the 70th anniversary provides a great opportunity for that.”
For me, as a product of Fayetteville and because of the army contingent of my area, as the 70th anniversary draws near, I am reminded of the bravery, courage, loyalty and commitment of each and every military member. I remember and appreciate the major sacrifices military members have made, are currently making or will make, whether on D-Day, or six months ago as they left for Afghanistan or tomorrow.