Last week the nation and Europe marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
There were ceremonies and laudatory comments and editorials. Then the day concluded. The ceremonial bunting, the speeches, the replicas of World War II vehicles were put away and reserved for the closet of history.
Less than a week later, the ceremonies of that fateful day can seem like a year ago.
That should not be so.
Traditionally, Americans reach for the future. We spend vast amounts of time projecting and fashioning a future of prosperity. Collectively, we tend to spend only the necessary amount of time reviewing the past.
We are a nation continually focused on the future. Wars, after all, are difficult and horrible and best left to the fading tentacles of memory. Yet we cannot, and should not, forget the sacrifice made on June 6, 1944. Thousands of Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy into an unknown future. As a group, they were hopelessly young but impossibly optimistic about what the United States could do.
We as a nation rightly marked D-Day and the sacrifice of our service members last week.
As time goes on, though, and fewer and fewer D-Day veterans remain with us, there is a real risk their memory will fade.
We can’t let that happen.
We also cannot allow the sacrifice made by our service members in any conflict fade into oblivion. A good case in point is the Spanish-American War. A conflict fought more than a 100 years ago, the war impacted small communities across the nation. Oregon soldiers fought in more than 40 battles and firefights, and 16 were killed in action. Another 48 were wounded.
Oregon sent its youth to fight in that war, but their memory, what they did for our nation, remains largely forgotten.
When the drums of war begin to beat, the nation should support our service members. When they deploy to foreign shores, we should be behind them. And when they return, we owe those brave men and women support as well.
Yet we also owe them our memory. We owe them more than one day of recognition. Their faces and names and sacrifices should not evaporate with time.
In the end, it is up to us, including those who did not or could not serve, to ensure the memory of those who forfeited safety and security to protect our values.
Their memory must remain alive. Always.