By Maj. Gen. Donna Martin and Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge
On May 8, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in the European Theater. On this day, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to Allied forces, eight days after the suicide of Hitler. The surrender was commemorated with a holiday — Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day for short.
Upon hearing the news, there were scenes of great rejoicing in Europe and America where thousands of people crowded into Times Square in New York City.
May 8 had been a long time coming. The tide had changed in favor of the Allies after the Soviets held back the German army at Stalingrad, in a bitter five-month campaign in 1942-43. With the Nazi war machine checked, there was light at the end of the tunnel. However, for two more years, battles raged on land, sea and in the air. Millions of people died and cities and communities were lost overnight.
Thus, V-E Day was a day of mixed emotions for the many people who lost friends or loved ones – or who knew service members still fighting the war in the Pacific.
President Truman’s sober message to the American people was clear. As American flags waved at half-mast in honor of the recent death of President Roosevelt, he said, “If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is work, work and more work . . . Our victory is only half over.”
Each year, fewer and fewer of the veterans and witnesses of V-E Day are with us. As we face our own challenging times today, we encourage you to use this time to reflect on the success of our forbearers in hard times to remind us we have been successful in the past and will be again in the future.
At Fort Leonard Wood, we thank the veterans, civilians, and families who laid down their lives and sacrificed their wants and needs in exchange for a better future for our nation. We are free and we are better for their sacrifice. We will never forget.
We are proud of your service and proud to serve with you!
Victory Starts Here…Victory Through Skill!
(Editor’s note: Martin is the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general. Breckinridge is the MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood command sergeant major.)