A day in advance of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, guests and visitors to the National World War II Memorial in Washington were invited to read the names of nearly 9,000 American service members who were killed as part of their participation in D-Day operations.
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, was among those who read names at the event.
"Few days in our national conscience so clearly capture the public's understanding of the monumental and desperately paid-for turning point in world history as June 6, 1944, does," Hoffman said. "One day tyrants rule Europe, and on the next, a force of good such as the world has never seen before or since ... valiantly established a beachhead for democracy on the continent."
Among those who landed at Normandy that day were British, French, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Polish, Belgian, Czechoslovakian, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Greek and American service members, Hoffman said.
"The battle of Normandy is a totem of how free nations can come together at a decisive time and place, and place the entirety of their shared resources, treasure, knowledge and men, toward a common mission," he added. "The invasion forged partnerships and reinforced crucial bonds that remain to this day."
On D-Day, Hoffman said, Americans ought to remember the sacrifices made by both American service men and women and Allies to secure a freedom on the European continent that has survived until today.
"To all who were part of the D-day operation, your bravery and heroism still resonates with our military today," Hoffman said. "We are forever indebted to you for your service. We seek to follow in your footsteps, and we honor you — not only on the 75th anniversary of D-day, but every day, as we remain ready to defend our nation, our friends and our allies, as you did so courageously 75 years ago."
Josiah Bunting III, chairman of Friends of the National World War II Memorial, said that while many remember operational details about D-Day, it's more important to remember the individuals who sacrificed to secure victory.
"When others talk of war and victory, too often they talk of divisions and regiments and victory," Bunting said. "And they forget what those who fell gave up. God bless them, on this solemn day. And let all of us who are privileged to be here and participate in this commemoration remember our own obligation to see the succeeding generations of Americans not be allowed never to know of that sacrifice and their indebtedness to these brave men and women."
Volunteers read the names of nearly 9,000 service members who died on D-Day or shortly after as a result of their participation, and who are buried at Normandy American Cemetery in France. The names were read one by one, with each participant reading 20 names before yielding the microphone to the next volunteer. At nightfall, participants held a candlelight vigil to accompany the reading of names.