This is the story of the Allied victory. It’s the legend of units like Easy Company and the All-American 82nd. It’s the tale of the British people, whose courage during the Blitz forced Hitler to call off the invasion of England; the Canadians, who came even though they were never attacked; the Russians, who sustained some of the war’s heaviest casualties on the Eastern front; and all those French men and women who would rather have died resisting tyranny than lived within its grasp.
It is the memories that have been passed on to so many of us about the service or sacrifice of a friend or relative. For me, it is my grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who arrived on this beach six weeks after D-Day and marched across Europe in Patton’s Army. And it is my great uncle who was part of the first American division to reach and liberate a Nazi concentration camp. His name is Charles Payne, and I’m so proud that he’s with us here today.
I know this trip doesn’t get any easier as the years pass, but for those of you who make it, there’s nothing that could keep you away. One such veteran, a man named Jim Norene, was a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Division of the 101st Airborne. Last night, after visiting this cemetery for one last time, he passed away in his sleep. Jim was gravely ill when he left his home, and he knew that he might not return. But just as he did 65 years ago, he came anyway. May he now rest in peace with the boys he once bled with, and may his family always find solace in the heroism he showed here.
In the end, Jim Norene came back to Normandy for the same reason we all come back. He came for the reason articulated by Howard Huebner, another former paratrooper who is here with us today. When asked why he made the trip, Howard said, “It’s important that we tell our stories. It doesn’t have to be something big¼just a little story about what happened — so people don’t forget.”
So people don’t forget.
Friends and veterans, we cannot forget. What we must not forget is that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and the selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century. At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found within themselves the ability to do something extraordinary. They fought for their moms and sweethearts back home, for the fellow warriors they came to know as brothers. And they fought out of a simple sense of duty — a duty sustained by the same ideals for which their countrymen had once fought and bled for over two centuries.