As I might have mentioned, my father once told me that someone once told him that the date for the D-Day invasion was chosen to prevent any misunderstandings about exactly which day it was. When they wrote condensed military jargon, I understand that the British put the day first and the Americans the month. You can see how that might lead to coordination problems between military units with commanders from different countries. Enter a date that reads the same both ways: 6/6.
Alas, it is not true. General Eisenhower originally set D-Day for 05 June 1944, based on favourable tide conditions that would not be repeated for another two weeks and the fear that waiting another two weeks might give it away to the Germans. Bad weather on 05 June delayed the invasion by one day.
Of the approximately 14,000 Canadians who landed at “Juno Beach,” so code-named for the invasion, 359 were killed and another 715 injured. Those numbers are more precise than I’d expect, but that’s the official record.
I don’t want to glorify war: That’s not what remembrance is about. It’s not about idolizing movie-brave cartoon cut-outs: It’s about remembering real-world-brave men. I expect that many if not most were deathly afraid, with good reason. Yet they all stepped up, regardless of how they felt. That is bravery. That is duty.
Remembrance is, literally, about remembering what happened, and it starts with knowing something about the reality. It’s about knowing what has gotten us here: Not assuming that it was the best path, but acknowledging that it was our path.
I’ve come to see it as the societal equivalent of just saying, “I’m sorry,” when someone tells me their troubles. Not trying to re-frame or downplay or dismiss what they’re going through. Not trying to pretend that I really understand what it’s like for them. Just trying to stand with them, as well as I can.
For me, the statistics don’t necessarily help: I need to hear the stories, including the ones that show it’s possible to come through even that experience and still find joy in life. And give joy.
So, on this anniversary of D-Day, I share Guy Whidden’s story and I thank him for his service, then and now.