Courage – on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

There are many quotes on the difference
between courage and bravery: being brave
is an absence of fear, courage is doing
what needs to be done despite your fear.

There were boys bobbing in little metal cans, listening
to the explosions of shells somewhere in front
of them — their destination — and the ping of bullets
against the sides, knowing the door would drop soon.

Fear was rampant in those troop boats, but there
was courage enough, enough to brave the hail of fire
that met them as they hit the water and fought to take
the beach. Most of the first two waves died in the sea.

Those making it onto the sand — uniforms heavy with the weight
of waves of blood — faced a nightmare none then could
imagine and none today can comprehend, advancing into
fierce resistance, advancing inch by inch and life by life.

Heroes were made that day, along with widows and mourning
parents. Victory is what we remember, courage we celebrate,
names and faces remembered only by those who walk among
the white stones to decorate a resting place far from their home.

There was courage aplenty on those French beaches so long ago,
a focus on a common enemy and a justifiable cause. Boys became
men as they fought and watched friends die, witnesses to horrors
they would never reveal and memories they would never betray.

We still revere the courage of the warrior, and praise the value
of their sacrifices, but can find no agreement on their mission.
The speeches of politicians do little to honor the dead, their
very presence an affront to those who gave all for a cause.

We are a shattered people, with divergent views of right, just,
and evil. I shudder at the thought of what terror must be wrought
before a common enemy will again be identified. I fear for a world
where our leaders have neither the bravery nor courage to lead men to war.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Courage – on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

  1. This is a beautiful tribute to the thousands that displayed courage and fought for our freedom on the French shores 70 years ago. “There was courage aplenty on those French beaches so long ago, / a focus on a common enemy and a justifiable cause.” – I totally agree with you, Mark. WWII was not just a horrible war, it had a specific and identifiable purpose.
    The last stanzas also ring very true and I hope we do not have to face such terror ever again, even though it is hard to be optimistic in the light of recent European elections.

  2. Mark, where do I begin? Wow, what a poem! I have been spending time reading about and thinking about World War I and World War II lately, and your poem has so moved me. You’re right, I don’t think that people really think any more about what the soldiers went through on Normandy. So true that heroes were made as well as widows. But mostly we remember the victory and celebrate that. There is so much we do not know, perhaps do not care to know, about how all was accomplished. But yes, there was a common enemy and an identifiable cause… And I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that it was a just war, and it had to be fought. That is something we struggle with today, I think, determining the justness of things. And yes, there is a lot to fear. I can think of various parts of the world today…and wonder what the future will bring.

  3. what will bring us together…will it have to be as devastating? i would hope not, but a common foe does tend to bring us together…hard to even imagine what they faced on those beaches…that last stanza def brings this forward to today…

  4. I am most struck by the fact that most of the soldiers WERE only “boys”. I cant imagine how it felt to be plunged into the horrors of war at eighteen, nineteen, twenty.

  5. Could I do that? I don’t think so. At times I have felt that some of the students head home into situations that feel like that, but certain death is different than randomness. Signing on to a cause/mission we believe in? O, I hope so, and I hope the weapons are détente and restoration projects we need each other for. Weapons have changed so much that few see the people they have to kill, though we still must wade through the carnage. Thank you for honoring courage and raising necessary questions. Until we find leaders who will walk in the shoes of their troops, we will remain shattered.

  6. no one should ever have to face the terror again they faced… my heart bleeds when i think of all the wasted lives in wars – yet some battles have to be fought when it comes to democracy and freedom.. honestly – it scares me what happens in the world at the moment and i hope we manage to solve the problems without having to start another war – fine write mark

  7. I now live within a few kilometres of all the landing beaches.The events of D-Day and the aftermath are constantly remembered here in many ways.
    I remember the day when news of the landings came on the radio, and the joy that the news brought everywhere in Britain.. My mother danced round the kitchen with the man who delivered the news along with the groceries.

    But your concluding lines ” I fear for a world
    where our leaders have neither the bravery nor courage to lead men to war.” are the opposite to my feelings on the subject:

    I fear for the. world where leaders have the arrogance to send men to war at the slightest pretext, the arrogance to think that their way is better than that of other countries, small or large. the arrogance to interfere, the arrogance to spend lives.

  8. I found that this post drew me into a world that I never realized. I had friends that fought and died in Vietnam. I was not there and all I felt was the anger about the senselessness of that war and the loss of my friends. But Normandy and the war fought thus seems still to mind a righteous war, fought of necessity. Perhaps what we really need are leaders who can recognize when a war is both righteous and necessary; and then have the courage to lead accordingly.

Some of what I write is true, some is fiction; most is merely possibility.

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