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Ronald Reagan on the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, Omaha Beach

“We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

In one of his last public speeches, Ronald Reagan returned on June 6, 1994 to Omaha Beach to speak a ceremony commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Invasion of Europe, D-Day. Later that year we learned of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, and he retired from public view.

He repeated much of what he said ten years previous to this occasion. Again he spoke of the veterans of that Invasion who could share with us the “fear of being on the boat waiting to land.” How their loved ones could later “see the ocean and feel the sea sickness.” With them we “can see the looks on his fellow soldiers’ faces — the fear, the anguish, the uncertainty of what lay ahead.” Reagan then challenged us to “feel the strength and courage of the men who took those first steps through the tide to what must have surely looked like instant death.”

The Berlin Wall, now having been toppled, Reagan again laid out how the important fact those soldiers who “stormed the beaches of Normandy . . . came not as conquerors, but as liberators.”

As these were some of his final public words, it is fitting that he challenged a world newly-freed from Communist enslavement to remember that when our “troops swept across the French countryside and into the forests of Belgium and Luxembourg they came not to take, but to return what had been wrongfully seized.”

Freedom was finding a new birth in Eastern Europe. Reagan’s final sentiments in one of his last public addresses provide a real challenge to us as Americans, to our leaders, and to the leaders of a post-Soviet world – a world, as of 1994 not yet poisoned by 9-11.

“When our forces marched into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned to be free again.” Now we live in a terror-infected world. Now America needs to “nurture the seeds of democracy” – more than ever.

Further, the former president reassured us that because we overcame that “terrible war we learned that unity made us invincible,” and that “now, in peace, that same unity makes us secure.”

Every nation seeks to remember its honored dead. Reagan, though, challenged us to “always remember” our honored dead so that in their sacrifice, “We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”

Click here to see the full transcript of this important speech.

Please see below for key excerpts.

“He made me feel the fear of being on the boat waiting to land. I can smell the ocean and feel the sea sickness. I can see the looks on his fellow soldiers’ faces-the fear, the anguish, the uncertainty of what lay ahead. And when they landed, I can feel the strength and courage of the men who took those first steps through the tide to what must have surely looked like instant death.”

A 20-YEAR OLD BOY HAVING TO FACE THAT BEACH

Private Zannata’s daughter wrote to me, “I don’t know how or why I can feel this emptiness, this fear, or this determination, but I do. Maybe it’s the bond I had with my father. All I know is that it brings tears to my eyes to think about my father as a 20-year old boy having to face that beach.” . . .

When men like Private Zannata and all our Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy 40 years ago they came not as conquerors, but as liberators. When these troops swept across the French countryside and into the forests of Belgium and Luxembourg they came not to take, but to return what had been wrongfully seized. When our forces marched into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned to be free again.

UNITY MADE US INVINCIBLE

From a terrible war we learned that unity made us invincible; now, in peace, that same unity makes us secure. . . .

WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER

We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.