This week in June, significant anniversaries of major world events share the spotlight.
June 4th marks 25 years since the bloody massacre that ended weeks of student-led protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Official numbers state that 200-some were killed, but other estimates place the death toll in the thousands. The uprising was quashed and yet the victims did not die in vain. After the defeat, reforms began their slow ascent in that vast nation (still needing a low way to go). Also, people in Eastern Europe were infused with courage to stand up to their governments and watch them topple – just a matter of mere months afterward.
The country that led the way in Eastern Europe is Poland. June 4th is also the 25th anniversary of that nation’s first free elections in decades, ushering in the Polish Solidarity Union which signaled the beginning of the end of the old regime.
June 6th marks 70 years since D-Day, the day Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of coastline in Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower motivated the soldiers by saying “We will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold that ultimately led to victory and the end of the war. The cost was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but more than 100,000 soldiers survived to march across Europe and defeat Hitler.
These events follow closely on the heels of our own Memorial Day, reminding me of the great sacrifice and courage many regular people have demonstrated over the centuries. I’m grateful for the freedom they have been willing to purchase for me.