Approaching Omaha Beach…with the Greatest Generation

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Omaha BeachAs Memorial Day approaches, it is a good time to stop and give thanks to the Lord for the amazing freedoms we have in America. But as we celebrate our nation's freedoms and greatness this Memorial Day weekend, America is also a nation that still needs to be defended. That is true because our nation is facing its greatest challenges to maintain our freedoms from within. It seems there are many forces at work today that want to reshape or fundamentally transform America into a different type of nation that has little in common with the Constitutional Republic founded on July 4, 1776. And while much could be said about all of those forces within our nation, let it suffice to say that all of them are connected to having America sacrifice for them, not the other way around. Selfishness is truly America's greatest battle. Few seem to remember President Kennedy's Inaugural address in 1961 that said in these famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Those words have never rung so true as today. America seems to be lost in a growing sea of selfishness and entitlement that it is threatening the future of the Republic as we have come to know and love it.

Thankfully, it wasn't always that way. Just one generation earlier there was a group of people that wanted little if anything from America. Their goal was to give something to this nation. Their lives were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II and they were primarily givers not takers. They were used to hard work and didn't tend to think others owed them anything. They wanted to work. They didn't want someone to take care of them. Many of them had immigrant parents and were just glad to be here in the "land of the free and the home of the brave". Many of their parents and grandparents had come from Europe and around the world to find a new beginning, a chance to be something else, a chance to improve their lives and that of their children. This generation has been called the Greatest Generation by many today because virtually everything that we have has come to us as a result of their lives and sacrifices.

The reason I know something about that generation is because my parents were a part of it. My parents lived through the Great Depression and my father served in the Army during World War II. They lived through those challenging times and as a result, I was left with a deep patriotism and love for this nation, along with a strong work ethic. They were hard workers all their lives. Their hard work and commitment to their family gave me a life of blessing and privilege that even now I have not fully grasped.
 
Now my parents were not unusual when compared to others in their generation. And on this Memorial Day weekend, we need to look back and realize how we got here. If we are going to learn any lessons from history, we need to know who these people really were and how they are speaking to us today. You see, it was the generation that landed on Omaha Beach during D-Day in June 6, 1944 and were slaughtered by the thousands for freedom that has something to teach us. It was that generation that didn't think about being served but served others and saved the world from tyranny and totalitarianism.

So many members of that generation never came home from war. Over 400,000 soldiers died during War World II alone. Most of them were under 25 years of age. They died on Omaha Beach or some other forsaken place that most of us never heard about or have forgotten. They never had a family, watched their children grow up or took a vacation. They never built their dream house, went to college or had a career. They just had a sense of duty for their country and love for their family that caused them to fight in places like Omaha Beach, never to come home again. They are the reason why we stop and remember, and why I have taken the time to honor them and write about their sacrifices on this Memorial Day weekend.

Perhaps the most important thing to stop and reflect upon this weekend is not just about their sacrifices for us. Perhaps the most important thing for us to think about is what we owe them. Do we owe them anything and if so what is it? That is a hard and soul-searching question for all of us to think about. What lessons have their deaths taught us about our lives and freedoms? Is there anything we should be doing now to protect and honor their legacy and memories that we have missed or are missing? Thankfully, most of us will never have to run on to Omaha Beach in France to face a torrent of machine gun fire and artillery and see hundreds of our friends lying dead and wounded all around us. So, the question for us is not about facing death in combat, but more importantly how to live our lives today in view of what they did for us. And if our lives are not really changed in anyway today because of them, they will seemingly have lived and died in vain. After all, sacrifice is only meaningful and transforming if it changes us. If we forget them, the greatest sacrifices teach us nothing.

The reason why this discussion about remembering their lives and sacrifices on this Memorial Day weekend is so important is because the war they fought is not over. Surely World War II, and all our wars, is a picture of the spiritual conflicts that continue to go on. War has been a part of the human condition in every generation, with or without bullets. Who cannot help seeing the war being fought all around us tonight in America? Some call it a culture war or a political war but it is a real war none the less. And it seems the entire nation is in the midst of this raging battle, even though no one is dying as many did on Omaha Beach.

But what then is this current war really all about? Why all the conflicts? Why all the battles? The answer to that question has surely NOT changed since Omaha Beach. Sadly, many in our nation can't clearly see that the battle lines have always been there from the beginning. That battle has always revolved around one group of people trying to take freedom from others for their own self-focused agenda. During World War II the battle raged over leaders trying to control others by taking away their God-given freedoms as to how to live their lives. We could apply names to these movements like Nazism, fascism or totalitarianism, but their goal was always the same, namely the destruction of personal freedom and liberty. It was this agenda that the greatest generation died to stop on Omaha Beach with their lives. They would want us to remember their dedication to stop those forces, wherever they appeared, overseas or here at home today.

Sadly, few seem to see those very same powers at work in America right now trying to control and manipulate the precious gift of liberty that millions fought, and many died to give us. Those exact same powers are at work today in our media, political discourse, on our college campuses, in our courtrooms and in every level of government pushing humanism, socialism, political correctness, revisionistic history and distortions of the truth on every issue. The goal of these ambitious and corrupt people is always the same, to take away the liberties of a free people. This raging battle will always shape and define the cultures and political battles of every society on some level. It started for America in 1776 against the British Empire and it continues tonight from within our own nation. Such a battle calls on all of us to remember and fight for our freedoms this Memorial Day weekend so that the sacrifices of our honored dead as seen in the greatest generation will not be in vain.

And finally, all these battles have always pointed to the Lord and the greatest battle and sacrifice ever made for our freedoms. Our Lord fought a battle that culminated on a cross to redeem us and bring us back to Him and give us a new birth of freedom. Ultimately only the Lord Jesus Christ can set us free from the sins that try to make us slaves of others and even ourselves. This great battle was at the heart of the Lord's words to us in John 8:31-32,
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
May our Lord's wonderful words and sacrificial death for our freedom speak to every heart on this Memorial Day.  That is the true Memorial Day.  May we never forget the people that died on Omaha Beach and everywhere so that our precious liberties would be maintained and fought for afresh in this hour. Let's commit ourselves to live and fight for the freedoms so many died to give us.