Celebrating the Heroes of the Past

By Catherine Salgado on June 11, 2019

There were two highlights of U.S. President Donald Trump’s European tour which should have garnered more press, since he was celebrating the heroes of the past: the message he issued on June 2 regarding the late Pope John Paul II and the speech he delivered June 6 in Normandy commemorating the historic D-Day invasion.

On June 2, 2019, Trump issued a presidential message commemorating the 40th anniversary of John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979. Saluting the pope who grew up under Communism, went to seminary in secret, and was a major force behind the fall of the Communist Soviet Union during the Cold War, Trump declared that John Paul II’s nine-day pilgrimage “changed the course of history.”

via Pexels

In his statement, the president said, “As we remember the long struggle of the Polish people against communism, we also acknowledge that millions of people now live in freedom because of St. Pope John Paul II and his extraordinary life as a follower of Jesus Christ and a champion for human dignity and religious liberty.”

As Trump showed by his honorary action, John Paul II was a hero for the whole free world, not just for Catholics, because he joined forces with other world leaders to defeat a common threat and refused to back down. In a world where the Soviet Union seemed invincibly strong, the pope took a stand against the invincible and helped to overthrow it.

As the president put it, in the homily which John Paul II gave during his 1979 pilgrimage, “His words stood tall against the repressive forces of communism throughout Poland and the rest of Europe,” and the pope “inspired courage in the hearts of millions of men and women to seek a better, freer life.”

Another inspirational, important message delivered by Trump was on June 6 in Normandy, at the joint event between the countries impacted 75 years earlier by the D-Day invasion which began the liberation of France and spelled the beginning of the end for the powerful Nazis.

“You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of the republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart,” Trump told the American veterans of D-Day reassembled at the site of their heroic venture. The president saluted the brave soldiers of the other countries who helped plan and execute the D-Day invasion, before specifically honoring the Americans. As Trump noted, “Before the war, many had never ventured beyond their own community. Now, they had come to offer their lives halfway across the world.”

Stressing the immense importance of D-Day, Trump said, “The GIs who boarded the landing craft that morning knew that they carried on their shoulders not just the pack of a soldier, but the fate of the world.”

via Wikimedia Commons

President Trump even took time in his speech to salute individuals, emphasizing the human cost of the invasion.  Among several veterans present there whom he praised was former Army medic Arnold Raymond “Ray” Lambert, who suffered multiple injuries while rescuing other injured comrades on D-Day and who is now 98 years old. He also mentioned the wife of a French farmer who waited out the invasion in her house, terrified until a soldier arrived on her doorstep and told her, “I’m an American…I’m here to help.”

The Frenchwoman’s granddaughter was present at Trump’s speech. “We come not only because of what they did here. We come because of who they were,” Trump declared. He attributed their victory not to military might but to the character of the soldiers. “They were sustained by the confidence that America can do anything because we are a noble nation, with a virtuous people, praying to a righteous God.”

The president also saluted the families left behind by the soldiers and the accomplishments of Americans both in peacetime and in wartime, saying, “The American sons and daughters who saw us to victory were no less extraordinary in peace” than they had been in war.

Like President Trump, we should take time to remember the heroes both of our own country and of other countries who ensured that we would live in a freer, better world today. As Americans go wild about the new Avengers: Endgame movie, it would be helpful to pause and remember that superheroes really do exist—among them the men and women who sorrowed, labored, fought, and died to secure liberty and democracy for this country and for Europe. That is a victory worth remembering!

Hi! I am a rising junior at Christendom College double majoring in Classics (Classical Languages) and Theology. I am the eldest child in a family of five kids and was homeschooled all the way up until I went to college. My hobbies include writing novels and articles, reading, knitting, drawing, playing piano and ukulele, and making jewelry. Post graduation, I hope to become a full-time journalist.

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