SEQUIM — On June 6, 1944, at the height of World War II, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France began. The invasion of the beaches of Normandy came with a high cost of life but laid the groundwork for the liberation of long-occupied France and ultimately victory for the Allies on the European front of the war a year later.
Thursday marked the 75th anniversary D-Day, a hallmark anniversary Sequim resident Mac Macdonald hopes can be used to help spark an increase in social involvement in a world he sees as less united in recent years.
Macdonald will speak at a special D-Day remembrance at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 17, at the Old Dungeness Schoolhouse at 2769 Towne Road.
He will talk about how the sacrifices made at Normandy should enable today’s generations to be more involved in societal matters and more aware of the kind of impact they can make.
A corporate trainer, counselor and actor, Macdonald spoke at the 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy in 2014, telling students and parents to get away from screens and into their communities.
“I love my phone as much as the next guy,” Macdonald said, “but there’s so much more to the world than just what’s on our screens.
“We have a duty to give back to society, to give back (for the sacrifice) they made.”
Macdonald said he is worried about the passage of time, meaning that Americans are losing the connection to the impact of the events of World War II and the national unity it brought, and sees the growing political and social divides in recent years as a symptom of that.
Service to the community, Macdonald said, is the most important thing to improving not just yourself but the world around you.
“No matter how depressed you get or how much struggle you’re going through, you always have to remember how many people need you,” Macdonald said.
“If you breathe and you walk and you exist, you have an obligation to give back, to help the people and the community around you.
“And you’d be amazed at how much giving back like that can do for yourself.”
D-Day saw a multi-fronted attack begin by the Allied forces, including men from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Czechoslovakia and Norway — along with exiled forces from France and Poland fighting to reclaim their homelands.
The assault was preceded by airborne and naval bombardment of the German defensive positions along the cliffs and beaches near Normandy, and then amphibious landings brought the Allied forces ashore at five beachheads.
The fighting was bloody and difficult, with nearly 20,000 men falling combined between the Allied and German forces. It took Allied forces nearly a week to link and fully secure the beaches, and two weeks to take the city of Caen — something that Allies had planned to take in the first days of the invasion.
It’s easy to unite against a major and obvious enemy like Hitler and the Nazis, Macdonald said, but it’s more difficult to stay united in a world without such obvious foes.
Macdonald said that the anniversary of D-Day — a day of incredible unity, sacrifice and service that changed the world forever — is a time for people to come together.
“Vote and volunteer,” Macdonald said. “Those are the two most powerful things you can do. Educate yourself on the issues and the candidates and vote.
“Then go volunteer, watch local theater, support museums, help local causes. Improve the area around you, and you improve yourself.”
Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].