The late Thurlow Fernandez, a WWII veteran who called Sherwood, Arkansas home, recalled during an interview in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project (VHP) how a medical condition he suffered from on June 6, 1944 prevented him from participating in the invasion of Normandy, France. He said it’s unlikely that he would have come home if he hadn’t been hospitalized because all of his shipmates were killed. More than 6,000 Americans died on D-Day, but their sacrifice and heroism marked the beginning of the end of World War II.
I was honored to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in a ceremony with President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and my congressional colleagues. We reflected on the sacrifices that were made on the hallowed ground where American and Allied troops landed and where thousands of individuals gave their lives.
The Allied forces’ assault on the German-held French coastline during World War II is the largest amphibious invasion in history. It remains one of our nation’s greatest military achievements. The courage, strength and determination of members of the Greatest Generation who were called to defend freedom on D-Day will forever serve as an inspiration for future generations of Americans.
Many of these heroic individuals are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery. The graves of brave Americans dot the landscape where these courageous liberators fought and died. The crosses and Stars of David that mark their places of rest shine in the sun light on the cliffs of Normandy, giving hope for peace and reminding us of the costs of war.
The Normandy American Cemetery is the jewel of American Battle Monuments Commission sites. Approximately one million visitors each year pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the D-Day invasion and the battles that followed.
The cemetery and visitor center recognize the sacrifice of members of the Armed Forces who served at this turning point of the war, including the story of Private First Class Harold Eugene Sellers of Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Sellers was a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. As a pathfinder, his mission was to lead the invasion by parachuting behind enemy lines into Normandy and setting up radar and lights for C-47s, which had been loaded with additional paratroopers the night before the amphibious landing. He jumped over France and was targeted by German gunfire. Sellers landed in a tree not far from Utah Beach, where he was killed. He was one of the first American casualties of D-Day.
As a co-chair of the Senate French Caucus, I was honored to introduce the Senate-passed resolution recognizing the 75th anniversary of this operation and acknowledging the courage and sacrifice of the Allied troops who came to the aid of those oppressed by the Nazi and Fascist regimes.
As we have just marked another anniversary of this historic and momentous occasion, let us resolve to reflect on the sacrifice and heroism displayed on behalf of our nation and the cause of freedom, and let us also commit to let it influence us in ways that challenge us to pursue the same devotion and service to America as the generation that stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944.