Today marks the 68th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe, the first major step in winning World War II.
It would be three months later when victory was declared against the Imperial forces of Japan. But for GIs in Europe, at least, it was a time to sit back and view what they had accomplished - victory over the greatest villain of the 20th century - and in the opinion of many, since ancient times.
The sacrifices were long, with the war for the US starting in the Pacific and extending across the globe. Hitler had already made his way across Europe, conquering Poland in three days, then moving on to The Netherlands and France.
Some said the US waited too long to enter the war. Others said we should not have entered it at all. But when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, we had no choice.
There are but a few who fought in Europe who are still able to talk about it. It still brings tears to their eyes when they tell their stories. But tell them they must, because theirs is the history of heroes, regardless of the role they may have played.
Early in the war over Germany, serving on a B-17 bomber crew was tantamount to suicide. For some squadrons, most of the bombers were lost. Not until fighter escorts joined them later in the war did the crews' chances of survival improve.
And then came Normandy.
The D-Day invasion was the largest military flotilla in history, dwarfing anything even in ancient times. Soldiers were pounded in landing craft by the German batteries as they inched up the blood-drenched sand to save people they didn't even know, whose language they couldn't even speak.
It wasn't over even after that.
That same year, the Battle of the Bulge saw some of the most horrific and heroic fighting by Allied forces in the European Theater of operations. Pitted against a determined enemy, the Allies finally conquered Germany as the Soviet Union closed the other end of the pincers from the east.
Finally, on May 8, 1945, victory came.
There is no way for anyone to understand the degree of sacrifice that the soldiers who won the war in Europe really made. Away from wives and families, some for two or three years, they came back as changed men and women. For years, many of them didn't even talk about it. Even today, some are just starting to speak of it.
That's why we should at least try to understand the depth and degree of what they gave - and many gave the ultimate sacrifice. Their graves are strewn not only across the US but Europe. Some are lost to the eternal ocean depths while others are giving a special sweetness to the wines of France, in the very place where they fell.
That's why we should remember them. And that's why we should honor them.