We live in a world where men play World War 2 video games for pleasure. For many, the extent of their historical knowledge about the war runs no deeper than what Call of Duty taught them.

But have you ever considered the fact that we only live in such a world—a world so free and prosperous that grown men have the leisure to simulate war—because real men gave up their real lives in a real war?

Today marks the anniversary of D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. Today is our reminder that the freedom we enjoy came at a cost. A horrific, incomprehensible cost.

Altogether, an estimated 550,200 men were killed, wounded, or missing during the terrible Normandy Invasion.

550,200 souls.

550,200 sons. Husbands. Fathers, brothers, lovers, and friends.

The trouble with statistics is that they are frustratingly faceless, so let’s unpack that number.

Imagine the tragedy of a dozen casualties. Imagine 12 of your friends. Pick them out by name. Imagine if they were all killed, injured in battle, or simply never seen again.

Now multiply that number by 45,850.

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To bring it down to an even smaller—but still mind-numbing—scale, the United States alone suffered 29,000 dead.

Remember, we’re not talking about mere figures or numbers. Twenty-nine thousand men died. Men with stories just as real as yours and mine. 

Pick any one out of the 29,000 and imagine what he was like. Did he have kids? Was his wife on her knees every day praying for his safe return?

Or did he have plans to get married? Did he carry his girlfriend’s picture in his pocket, and write her letters? Did she daydream about what their wedding would look like?

Or maybe he never loved anyone at all and died lonely. Maybe he had big dreams and lofty plans or simply wanted to get back home.

Maybe he lived in your hometown.

Once you are adequately acquainted with this poor, brave soul, remind yourself that on D-Day alone, there were 28,999 Americans like him.

It’s overwhelming.

We, today, are the (often ungrateful) benefactors of their profuse, unfathomable, unaccountable, and unimaginable heroism and loss. And what do we do to thank them? What do we do to memorialize their sacrifice?


Nothing, that is, except make video games about them so that weaker men can cosplay their bravery.

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The reason I “humanize” the casualty statistics is to put their true sacrifice—and our gross ingratitude—into perspective. The men who took those beaches were heroes, but they were not superhuman. They were courageous—not fearless. If we make them into overly doughty, absolutely unafraid supermen, we risk losing the weight—the struggle, the gravitas—of their fight.  

They were boys. Mere mortals. When confronted with fear, carnage, suffering, death, tragedy, and pain like few men alive today can imagine, they picked up their weapons and ran. Not away from the fight, but into the fray. Not oblivious to harm, but painfully aware of it—aware that at any moment everything could end. Indeed, for some of them, everything did end.

Nevertheless, they soldiered on. They conquered. And in spite of overwhelming opposition, they set us—“liberty-loving people everywhere”—on a path to win the war.

We could learn a thing or two from everyday men like that—men who blurred the line between average and extraordinary. Human heroes who make our modern fictionalized heroes look effeminate and weak by comparison.

God forbid that America should ever find itself again in such a terrible war, but rather than just sit on our hands and pray such a fate away, why don’t we do something, anything, to preserve what our ancestors fought and died for?

Their lives remind us that everyday people can make a difference for liberty. We can stave off and push back tyranny. It is possible… but it’s going to take so much more than playing video games.