June 6, 1944

“Let’s go.”

With those words, General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of Expeditionary Forces, gave the order to commence Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious assault in the history of the world.

The Council of State Governments pauses to remember the tens of thousands of allied troops who came ashore on D-Day and the thousands who perished. Their bravery on this day eight decades ago began the successful liberation of Europe from Hitler’s absolute tyranny. Their heroism preserved the freedoms we enjoy today.

As dawn broke over the English Channel beaches of France today, the sun is setting on the Greatest Generation. The boys who stormed those beaches, many still in their teens, are now centenarians. Soon, the living memory of that day will be extinct. We must keep alive the memory of the soldiers buried in the sacred ground near where they fell. We must remember all those whose preparations, sacrifice and leadership made such an audacious operation a success. This includes the women of America who helped build the weapons essential to winning the war and the marginalized Americans whose patriotism never wavered.

Last June, I walked with my daughter among the graves of the fallen heroes in the American cemetery in Normandy, on the cliff above the beaches. My daughter was then just a few years older than the men whose grave markers were carved with June 6, 1944, as their last day.

We couldn’t imagine how scared they must have been as they entered the battle. We thought of all those they loved back home who would receive a telegram sharing the news of their death. We paused to reflect on the horrors of the concentration camps and the pure evil and brutality of the Nazi authoritarian regime. We hoped that somewhere on another dawn, those who gave the last full measure of devotion were comforted knowing that their sacrifice would help defeat Hitler within just 11 months of D-Day.

We remembered my dad, her grandfather, who left high school early to join the Navy and served in the Pacific. We paused in front of one of the many white marble crosses whose inscription read, “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”

It was impossible not to think about all the futures that ended on that day. It was impossible not to be profoundly grateful for what that unnamed young American, and so many others, were willing to do for me, my daughter and the generations of Americans that followed.

The Council of State Governments works to support those who serve our country in uniform abroad and to help the families of service members pursue the American dream.

Through our partnership with the United States Department of Defense, we help service members exercise their right to vote, no matter where they are stationed in the world. Through our National Center for Interstate Compacts, we help state leaders draft and enact multistate agreements to reduce barriers for spouses of service members to practice their profession as they move from state to state.

Additionally, through our affiliated organization, the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3), we help states ensure that children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children. We are committed to assisting state officials carry out their priority to serve the men and women who serve us in uniform.

While the American, British and Canadian forces that braved the seas and the chaos of war 80 years ago must never be forgotten, we, today, must dedicate ourselves to carrying on in their spirit. Every generation must shoulder the responsibility of citizenship and fight to ensure our freedoms in their own way. I am honored to witness the work of the elected and appointed leaders of state government who boldly do just that every day.

The lessons of D-Day remind us that, as Americans, that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us, that alliances with other nations make us stronger, that freedom is worth fighting to protect. America remains the leader of the free world today because of the everyday men and women whose service makes America great.

In times of crisis, leadership matters.

Today, Europe faces another threat from a dictator. Again, the United States and its allies stand with the people of an embattled European ally, Ukraine, to keep Europe free, preserve democracy and enforce international norms. It is tragic that the lessons of loss war teaches us are lost on Vladimir Putin. It is beyond comprehension that hundreds of thousands of lives have been extinguished because of Putin’s misguided attempt at conquest

D-Day was a turning point in the war. In honor of those brave souls who did their duty on June 6, 1944, we must continue the work of building a safer world and a more perfect union.

Let’s Go.

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