In a letter dated June 5, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, wrote a touching letter to his wife. He advises her not to take it personally if he doesn’t write for a few days. He says starting on June 6, 1944, he will be going on a “series of trips” that will last 6-10 days.
Let me translate this into modern parlance for the younger readers. Here goes, “Hey babe! Sorry for the late text, didn’t mean to ghost you. Got super busy. Hope we can hang out again soon ; )”
For the older audiences, “ghosting” is essentially when communication drops off without explanation. It typically happens through text messages. Letter writing? That’s a whole different level of bold! Being “ghosted” can suck, and if its a close relationship then it can get a bit personal. In most cases, ghosting your wife would be pretty uncool. However, launching the greatest amphibious raid in modern history to free the world from Nazi oppression… I think the General has a valid excuse. Ike, you’re off the hook!
So what’s the occasion? It’s the 75th anniversary of the Allies invasion and liberation of Normandy. Furthermore, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum recently obtained General Eisenhower’s letter. The Wall Street Journal published it yesterday. It is short, and worth reading. Letters present a trove of valuable information that helps add color to history. In particular, they humanize the people involved. We glorify previous generations and historical figures, and for good reason. Their accomplishments are enormous. But, its also great to remember they are ordinary dudes too. They thought about sports, beer, women, and getting back home. Today, I suppose you could throw Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption in there.
My definition of heroism is ordinary people stepping up to do extraordinary things. General Eisenhower’s letter reveals that he was “ordinary” in a basic human sense. He loved his wife and cared about his family. On the day before he would lead 155,000 troops ashore at Normandy, he was still worried about ending up in the dog house.
In today’s military, many resources exist for families through “family readiness” programs. More than ever, the military recognizes the importance of taking care of families. Families serve and sacrifice in a different, yet important way. General Eisenhower’s wife would have been very much nervous, fearful, and on edge waiting for word from her husband. Her experience is no different than that of many families and spouses who have had to say goodbye to loved ones throughout the years. In today’s era of constant communication, the pressure can be even harder. Younger generations text and talk instantly. But when they deploy aboard a ship or to a remote part of the world, it becomes more difficult to maintain this type of communication. This can present another layer of stress for younger couples. They should take a cue from the General and be honest and up front about the drop off in communication. It does make a difference.
When studying history, we ask ourselves what would we have done? Could we have measured up? It is hard not to look back 75 years later at the sacrifice and service of the “greatest generation” and wonder these things.
Nevertheless, today’s generation has followed their lead. Stories are coming out from recent conflicts and the current operational theater that show they are up to the challenge. This is good. Every year, the population of World War II veterans shrinks. It is incumbent on today’s generation to carry the torch and maintain their legacy. How can we do this? Reading and studying is great. Especially when the reading in question (i.e. Ike’s letter) takes less than a minute. Constantly preparing physically and mentally is a must. Training and preparation cannot be a cake walk. The human factors of combat are too arduous to take things lightly. The possible enemy threat is too great to stay happy with the status quo.
Today, June 6, 2019, we continue to revere and honor the legacy of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers’ generation by keeping the memory of what they did alive. Seventy-five years after the fact, we can maintain connection with previous generations through service, hard work, and preparation to answer our nation’s call.
To all our veterans, we say thank you! For those continuing to serve, we appreciate your sacrifice and commitment.