Remember June 6th, D-Day
Each June, I advertise the last Legion dinner until September. It will be held on Friday, June 28 at 5 p.m. It is always hosted by our Ladies Auxiliary Branch 153. Tickets are $12 for dinner and dessert. Call the office for details – 519-842-5281.
As well, I always tell a short story about D-Day. This year June 6th signifies the 75th Anniversary of D-Day; the day that the allies launched a massive attack on Nazi occupied northern France and pushed through towards Germany.
Fifteen years ago, I was able to attend the 60th Anniversary of D-Day in France; it was on a trip with Robin Barker-James. It was my first trip overseas. For the first time I witnessed the geography in which I had studied for years. I saw what soldiers saw and walked where soldiers walked.
While on the trip we wet through the Juno Beach Centre; a museum that focuses on the Canadian experiences of D-Day. Once you go into the museum, after the lobby, you enter a small, semi-claustrophobic room. The doors closed behind us and we were in the dark. Soon we heard the sounds of the ocean with waves crashing. And slowly the lights came up and we realized that this room was a technological reproduction, in sound and sight, of the experience of a D-Day soldier in a landing craft. The sounds were loud and vivid, and the 360 perspective was heaving us up and down and all around. And when the motion stopped, the front hatch came down to simulate our landing on the beach. A door opened and we were guided into the museum.
The experience was intense. In hindsight, I remember that our group was full of WWII Veterans; several who had stormed Juno Beach in those days 60 years earlier in exactly the same way. I did not even think about asking our Veterans what they thought of that experience. It pains me today as a historian that I didn’t. How challenging it must have been. My historian side says, yes – let us experience this, but my compassionate side says, hey – let’s think about how Veterans might have felt during that experience.
The events of June 6, 1944 changed history. While recently recording a podcast through a Norfolk County organization, several other historians and I discussed D-Day and its impact. There is so much to take in: the command, the military tactics and decisions, the numbers, dates and theoretical implications. As a social historian and educator, I focus on how the experience can be taught and interpreted. An overwhelming point that was consistently brought forward was the appreciation of what those individuals had endured: the fear, unknown, and the risk of constant harm.
So, on this anniversary of D-Day, Thursday, June 6th, take time to consider and honour those who have served, their families, and stories, as well as the contemporary experience of those in conflict.
Please join us on Monday, July 1st at the cenotaph on Broadway at noon for our annual Canada Day Legion ceremony. Not only do we celebrate our country but also those who fought, served and died for our country. Enjoy the events that Tillsonburg has planned downtown, Annandale House, and at the fairgrounds. Be mindful of our freedom, our democracy and our community.
Happy Canada Day from Tillsonburg Legion Branch 153. Lest we forget.