Remembering V-E Day

May 8, 2015
Vintage World War II aircraft fly overhead at the World War II Memorial in Washington

Earlier today, I joined the crowds around the Lincoln Memorial to watch vintage World War II planes fly above the National Mall. It was one of many events commemorating the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day around the world. On this warm and sunny afternoon, people sat on blankets, while their kids played nearby. Others clearly had taken a short break from work and walked to the Mall.  We were all excited about seeing the planes.  The atmosphere was pleasant and happy and stood in stark contrast to the dark times of WWII, the war that’s end we were remembering.

As President Obama reminded us in his statement on V-E Day, more than five years of brutal fighting took the lives of some 40 million people across the continent—including six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime. During a ceremony at the WWII Memorial, National Security Advisor Susan Rice also spoke about the horrors of Dachau and Auschwitz.

She reminded us how important it is to never forget those times and the “Greatest Generation” who lived through them.  She said, “We honor all those brave men and women. Those who fell, and those who survived—including the proud veterans who are here with us today. We owe each of you an unpayable debt.  And, on behalf of President Obama, let me reaffirm the enduring gratitude of the American people. The story of your generation will never be forgotten.  We will continue to tell it to children blessedly untouched by war, so that they understand, as this memorial reminds us, ‘the price of freedom. We will continue to mark the passing of anniversaries like this one, so that memory never fades into complacency toward the evils of our world’.”

As we marked V-E Day, President Obama also invited us to recognize the accomplishments achieved since the end of the war.  We celebrate “not just a Europe that has known seven decades of peace and growing prosperity.  But the way the seed of democracy has flourished around the world. The lasting bonds that unite Europe and the United States. The international institutions that have underwritten peaceful development.”

As she concluded her remarks, Ambassador Rice reminded us how important it is to continue these efforts, “because, while one mission was fulfilled in 1945, the cause of defending freedom is never finished.  As President Truman put it, ‘We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world—to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law.’ That is the pledge we make today and every day.  And, no matter how difficult the challenges that lie ahead or what obstacles arise, we will never abandon this struggle.”

About the Author: Lenka Schropferova is a diplomat from the Czech Republic participating in the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship in the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs.

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