Hoping Our Past Strength Will Continue Into Our Future | Opinion

Believe it or not, as each week goes by there are times that I’m not so sure what to talk about in this column. That doesn’t happen often, for I am not usually stumped as to what to write about, but until Sunday evening I wasn’t sure what to share with you. That was the fact until this morning, when I rose and took a quick shower and then opened my mail and looked at social media.

This morning it dawned on me that June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day, some 78 years ago when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of France as part of Operation Overlord, marking it the largest seaborne invasion in history. That operation began the liberation of France and the push to free Europe from the tyrannical grip of Nazi Germany.

It is estimated that there are less than 3,000 veterans alive today who participated in the historic victory by Allied troops. Of the 16 million servicemembers who served from 1941 to 1945, it is estimated that 291,557 suffered battlefield deaths during wartime. Overall, the Veterans Administration estimates only a quarter of a million of those soldiers were still living by late 2021 and only about 169,000 will still be here in September of 2022. To put that into perspective, 150,000 troops landed on the five beaches near Normandy on that fateful day in June 1944.

One of those brave individuals who participated in the assault was Marco Island resident, Bedford Biles. Bedford and his wife Fay (both now deceased) lived on the island for many years following retirement and were an integral part of the community since its inception. Bedford was a member of the 101st Screaming Eagles that landed behind enemy lines. He was one of the estimated 5,000 who survived the jump that day, out of the 18,000 who originally made the jump. He was also very active in the island’s VFW Post.

As I write about D-Day, I find a direct correlation to the many events over the last two weeks that surrounded our community and others. Those events centered on graduations and celebrations, held here and around the nation, as young school-aged boys and girls graduated and moved on to the next set of challenges in their lives.

The challenges that will face the next generation that marched down the aisles to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance Marches are well-defined. Conquering their challenges will be just as vital to our nation’s future, as it was for our parents and grandparents with the challenges that they faced. I can only hope that we’ve done enough to harden them for the realities of the world they live in.

My use of the word “harden” reflects the realities of the times ahead. My generation and the ones to come have never had to sacrifice as our parents did during the terrible conflict that the “Greatest Generation” thrust upon them. That includes the ration requirement of services and goods as simple as sugar, tires, gasoline, and many other items we tend to take for granted today. I agree, many of us never had to endure that level of sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared should we be faced with such difficult times.

Earlier generations rose to their challenges and came out stronger and more determined than ever to build a better future for themselves and generations yet to come. I shudder to think what the outcry might be if we told today’s high school senior that they would have to give up their cellphone for the good of the order.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met and spoken with a number of your children over the years and taught school in the mid-1970s. I do think that they have the ability to stand up and be strong if challenged during difficult times. However, I shake my head every time I read a post or an article that states that teaching respect, etiquette and good manners should be a priority in our schools. Children should be coming to school with those qualities already engrained in their social fabric. This should be part of their upbringing at home before they come into today’s schools, therefore ensuring an environment conducive to learning for all.

Good sportsmanship is another trait that may be equally shared between the home and the school. It teaches children how to behave properly during and after competition. Sports should build a child’s good character, respect, honor, discipline and perseverance, as they move on in life.

I used to hate hearing parents from the stands (or coaches or officials) berate a child for their performance in a sport. What kind of lesson does that provide to children in their formative years?

Everyone in society has a responsibility to ensure a child is provided with appropriate guidance, led by our example. Teachers need to challenge and stimulate children’s desire to learn, and parents need to understand that they too are part of the learning process that will provide society with well-rounded citizens who are capable of dealing with future challenges.

As Americans we have always succeeded in overcoming the challenges presented to us. I am confident that we will once again tackle our challenges and move forward, more determined, and stronger as a nation.


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