I would hope that at some point Thursday every middle and high school student was made aware that June 6 was the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the coast of Normandy, France which was the turning point of World War II in Western Europe.  The largest seaborne invasion in history would lead to the liberation of France and was the key to the Allied victory.  What I find truly troublesome is that I know there are many who know nothing about this heroic operation which truly defined the “greatest generation.”

150,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day with some 5,000 killed in the initial hours of battle.  Many were teen-agers who were facing the reality of war for the first time and what they saw was horrific.  This is not a history lesson but a reminder of the simple fact that we are losing veterans of this and other battles during World War II daily.  Some of those survivors return annually to Normandy where they are treated like the heroes they were and welcomed with open arms.  I watched news accounts all this week and of course yesterday as they shared mix emotions…grateful they are remembered while sad for those they lost.  These men are all around 100 years old and the fact is it won’t be long before there are none left to tell the real-life stories of what they witnessed.

For many years we could get a first-hand account from Leonard “Bud” Lomell, a Toms River attorney who was one of the true heroes of D-Day.  A US Army Ranger, Lomell has been portrayed in history for his courage in disabling five 155-millimeter German guns at Pointe du Hoc despite being wounded before he even reached the shore.  He would receive many awards for his service during that and other battles during the war including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.  Lomell was a prominent attorney and active member of the community until his death in 2011 at the age of 91.

I hope students learned about D-Day…it’s a big part of our history and the heroes should never be forgotten.

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