A time for war and a time for peace


On June 6, 1944, America under the guidance of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and its allies engaged in one of the most significant military operations of the 20th century under the now legendary name of D-Day. Code named Operation Neptune, this was the largest seaborne invasion in history with 160,000 Allied troops landing in Normandy on that day. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States and 83,000 from Britain and Canada, with no less than 17 other Allied countries participating on the ground, the sea and in the air, including French troops fighting under the command of Gen. Charles de Gaulle. Despite poor weather conditions and fierce resistance from German forces, the operations were successful. On the evening of June 6, the Allies had gained a foothold on all five beaches as the German defenders numbering around 50,000 were uncertain how to respond.

We live near Camp Nelson National Cemetery, and from the highway, you can see many of the over 12,000 perfectly lined white marble tombstones. A reminder of the individuals who accepted the call of duty, and what is that call? To defend and protect our freedom whatever the cost! These brave soldiers were willing to fight for their country, and I cannot help but wonder how many of us have convictions that strong. The First Amendment was not only signed into existence with ink, but also with the blood of more than 1.1 million Americans who have died in U.S. wars, along with the countless more that have suffered from physical disabilities and psychological difficulties. The privileges and freedoms we enjoy have truly come at a great price. My family has suffered loss from war and has a deep appreciation for the service and sacrifice that men and women have given to protect our country. My grandfather served in World War I, two uncles served in Vietnam, and another uncle only 20 years old died on the battlefield in Korea.

As a volunteer chaplain for Thomson Hood, a veteran health care facility, I've had the opportunity and honor to sit and talk with many fine men and women who have served in our nation's military. The World War II veterans are now in their 80s and 90s, and I believe as with all military personnel, it's important to not only record and preserve their amazing stories, but also to sincerely listen and respect who they are as individuals. One of these residents is a man named Edward Hicks, who willingly stepped forward when his country needed him the most. He was only 22 years old in 1944 and had just married his lovely bride, Mary Lou, four months earlier. He received the call to join the frontline and bravely responded to what would be known around the world as Operation Overlord. The American soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they refused to allow a world where wrong prevailed.

Edward and his company were assigned to 6 miles of beach that was code-named "Omaha," which has been recorded as one of the bloodiest first-wave battles of Normandy. Only 600 men survived out of the 2,600 that came ashore. He recalls when he jumped out of the amphibious vehicle how the water was up to his neck and icy cold. Loaded down with full gear that was now water-logged, he said it was very difficult to keep from drowning. As bullets were splashing the water and whizzing past his head, all he knew to do was to stay as low as possible. Using floating bodies as shields, he was numb with fear. As he crawled upon the sand, he immediately began to dig a hole where he could partially avoid the onslaught of constant machine gunfire. Somehow throughout the day and thankfully with the Germans running out of ammunition, they managed to slowly make their way inland and went on to accomplish the mission.

Edward received several medals for bravery, including a Silver Star and four Bronze Stars, but there is much more to standing against tyranny than human fortitude and earning recognition. It is comprehending the depth of spiritual love that includes loving others as much as we love ourselves. Jesus demonstrated the greatest love the world has ever known when He willingly sacrificed His life for us. John 15:13 is a solemn reminder, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife, Cheryl, where he is a minister, Christian author, and community chaplain. Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com.