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Obama and Operation Neptune

On June 6, 1944, Operation Neptune was launched. Neptune was the code name for the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy, France, and was part of Operation Overlord. The goal was to secure a foothold so the Allies could begin a full-scale invasion of northwest Europe, push the Germans back, and achieve victory over Hitler.

The popular name for this operation is D-Day, the term for the actual landing day. Five beaches along the Normandy coast were chosen as sites for the landings. The Americans landed on Utah and Omaha beaches; the British took Sword and Gold beaches, and the Canadians secured Juno beach. If you’ve seen the movies “The Longest Day” or “Saving Private Ryan,” you’ve seen graphic depictions of what happened that day. It was brutal and bloody and successful. It was the beginning of the end of Nazi tyranny over Europe.

About 156,000 troops, including 73,000 Americans, landed that day. About 2,500 Americans were killed. The American Cemetery and Memorial was established in Normandy to inter American troops killed in WW II. There are 9,387 American military buried there. A beautiful memorial honors the dead.

A current email makes this claim: “In recent times, only 3 presidents have failed to go to the D-Day Monument that honors the soldiers killed on D-Day. Those 3 Presidents were: 1. Barack Obama 2010. 2. Barack Obama 2011. 3. Barack Obama 2012. For the past 70 years, all presidents, except Obama, have paid tribute to the fallen soldiers killed on D-Day.”

As is usual with these emails, this one is false. In reality, since 1944, just four presidents have attended D-Day memorial ceremonies in Normandy: Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984; Bill Clinton, June 6, 1994; George W. Bush, Memorial Day 2002 and June 6, 2004; and Obama, June 6, 2009. Obama will also be there on June 6, 2014. Interestingly, President GHW Bush, a WW II vet himself, never visited the memorial.

Michael Reagan wrote a column on May 9, 2013, lamenting the fact that the Obama administration “seems to have forgotten about marking the anniversary of D-Day.” He was upset that “As for the 2014 anniversary, the last major 10-year celebration that will include surviving veterans of D-Day, it also is being neglected by the Obama administration.”

I would be surprised by Reagan’s ignorance except that for right-wingers, facts just get in the way of a good smear. The fact is that Obama will be at the 70th anniversary commemoration. This should be a good thing, correct?

Not so much. On a right-wing site, I saw several comments about Obama traveling to Normandy for this solemn occasion. The comments reflect the determination of right-wingers to blame Obama no matter what. “When Presidents are having troubles at home they love to travel overseas. Besides, this will be mostly another vacation.” “Way to go, Obama. Associate yourself with another generation’s sacrifice and patriotism, what with US elections looming. And don’t forget to inform all the media outlets well in advance.” “Does he really care about D-Day? Just another trip at our expense.”

See how that works? If Obama doesn’t go to France, he is neglecting our history, our veterans and their sacrifices. If he does go, he is bamboozling the taxpayers. Just as President Reagan could do no wrong in right-wingers’ eyes, Obama can do nothing right.

One more fact. On May 15, 2014, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was dedicated. Both Obama and President Clinton spoke at the ceremony. Who was absent? The man who was president on Sept. 11 — GW Bush. Whatever anyone thinks of Bush, he should have been there. Bush was never shy about bringing up 9/11 while he was in office. He used the attacks to justify our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2004, he ran on a platform of fear, saying we could be attacked again if he wasn’t re-elected. But on the day when the victims were being remembered, Bush had a “scheduling conflict.”

Families noticed. One woman called Rush Limbaugh, saying, “He should have been the first person to speak, or at least his name mentioned. I’m very upset. I lost a son there.” Bush’s absence was a visible snub to these families who lost so much. Sadly, I’m not surprised; I’m just disgusted.

We are Americans. This D-Day, give thanks for those who sacrificed so we can be free, even to disagree with others. Let’s just try to base our dissent on facts. Those who died deserve that much.

Jeanette Strong is an LVN columnist whose column appears every other Wednesday.