Calarco: Honoring Memorial Day with a shared sacrifice

Rob Calarco, Suffolk County Presiding Officer
Posted 5/21/20

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower uttered these …

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Calarco: Honoring Memorial Day with a shared sacrifice


“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

General Dwight D. Eisenhower uttered these words to rally Allied troops before the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day. The invasion, one of the largest amphibious military assaults of all time, marked a turning point in World War II. There was tremendous risk. There was extensive planning. And there was unity.

This month, we marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Most of us do not remember that time ourselves. We can only read about the heroics and trials of those years, or if we are lucky, hear firsthand accounts from those who are still with us. With Memorial Day on the horizon, now is the time to honor our nation’s great heroes, not only of World War II but of all wars and efforts forged in the name of keeping us safe.

As I reflect on Eisenhower’s words to the soldiers in 1944 and think about what is happening today in 2020, I can’t help but see the parallels between the shared sacrifice the country made to support the World War II effort and the shared sacrifice Americans are making today as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greatest Generation lived through the incredibly trying times of the Great Depression and the second world war. The Allies had to pull together to win the war, but so did those at home in the United States where life was certainly not normal. It was a time of rationing, food shortages, and job scarcity. For families, it was all hands on deck as men went to war and women went to work to make essential supplies such as bullets. Everyone figured out how to do more with less, sacrificing for the world’s greater need.

While the COVID-19 public health crisis is not a war, we have had to have the mindset of a war effort. Our communities have had to endure shared sacrifices to protect our nation. We have had to give up the everyday activities we may have been taking for granted. Some have gone to battle on the front line; others have held down the fort at home or volunteered to make essential supplies, such as masks. We have forgone hugs and kisses and in-person pleasantries. We have all played our roles – some big, some small – as we share in a collective fight for all of our lives. Our front line isn’t a battlefield with bullets in a distant land, but rather a hospital emergency room in our own backyard. Our soldiers are not wearing camouflage; they are donning personal protective equipment and surgical gowns, and sadly some have lost their lives in this present battle.

Since March, life has been on pause while our focus has been containing this virus. Now, all eyes are on us as we are about to embark upon the next phase of the COVID-19 battle: reopening society, a move we have been striving for these many long weeks. Regions of New York are starting to reopen in phases, and if Suffolk and Nassau continue to meet the required metrics, we will be poised to join the other counties soon.

As the Normandy landings have become known as the beginning of the end of World War II, I can only hope we now stand at the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 crisis. We seem to be over the hump in terms of mounting new cases and crushing hospitalization numbers, and testing is more widely available, which will be critical to stopping the spread of the virus and getting people back to work. I hope the worst of it is behind us and at least some of the incredible strains that our communities have been facing are lifted soon. But when we reopen, we must remain ever vigilant – easing restrictions is just the necessary next step, one that must be taken with immense responsibility on all of our parts.

As Eisenhower said as he started the close of his remarks to the troops in France, “I have full confidence in your devotion to duty and skill in battle.” I have full confidence in Suffolk County residents’ spirit of cooperation. Yes, there is risk, but there is also extensive planning, and there is unity. We know what we have to do to reopen fully and safely; the experts have spoken and the rules have been laid out. Let our shared commitment to not let up in this next phase of our fight against COVID-19 be our way of honoring those protecting us.

When we take time on Memorial Day to remember those who lost their lives protecting our nation, our citizens, and our democracy in wartime, we must also remember that every member of society played a role in supporting those on the front line. Today, let us be proud to make the same shared sacrifice to honor the front-line soldiers of this crisis – the nurses, doctors, grocery store clerks, law enforcement officers, and other essential workers. And not just on Memorial Day, but every day, may we remember those, both of past battles as well as our current battle, who lost their lives bravely protecting our nation, our citizens and our way of life.


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