The 79th D-Day Anniversary was the fifth time I have been back to Normandy, France. Each time is humbling. These hallowed grounds mark a turning point in the history of the world, and the sacrifices made for freedom were incredible.
Many of those soldiers that fought in this campaign never returned home and remain there to this day. And many of those that did return home were left with scars, both seen and unseen. It was precisely in this place, where after speaking to a World War II Veteran, the idea for the Making History Project was born.
The United States led this first definitive battle to return freedom to Europe. For that, I am forever proud. This battle alone may be the most influential event that has shaped the history of the United States. Because of this, each year, the United States returns solemnly to Normandy to commemorate the sacrifices of those that fought in Normandy.
This year was no different. Both the 82nd Airborne and the 101st Airborne were present as they always are. Also in attendance were the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley, and many prominent Admirals and Four Star Generals.
Incredibly, more than fifty U.S. World War II Veterans, even in their advanced age, made the trip to Normandy. The Best Defense Foundation, under the leadership of Donnie Edwards, was instrumental in this achievement. It was an honor to be in the presence of these Veterans, and I am sure they found the experience surreal yet satisfying.
The French citizens of Normandy are gracious and willing hosts. This a yearly cause that is dear to their heart. During the 79th D-Day Anniversary, they came out in great numbers to show their appreciation at the many ceremonies and parades to honor the success of D-Day. It seems as though each year, more events are planned, more memorials are erected, and new museums are constructed to honor the memory of when their freedom was regained.
Next year will mark the 80th Anniversary of D-Day. This will surely be a massive event. Because most World War II Veterans will, at a minimum, be 98 years old next year, this may very well be the last time you can see their great gathering. I would encourage you to consider visiting Normandy next year for D-Day, as it will be an experience you will never forget.