75 years ago, 73,000 American heroes prepared to change the world. Loaded down with 100 pounds of gear and ammo, soldiers were dumped on the shore of France, sprayed with salt water and German lead.
In the chaos, thousands of Allied troops fell. It wasn’t one of those victories that felt good. It was a sacrifice made for a greater good– knocking out a genocidal tyrant with a massive army bent on world domination.
D-Day wasn’t the end of the war. It wasn’t the day that brought ticker-tape parades and sailors kissing nurses in the streets. Rather, it was a battle that turned the tide of the war. Up until that day, a world controlled by Nazis was a very real possibility. D-Day means “Decision Day.” The battle at Normandy marked the day of decisive victory in World War II.
Before the battle, General Dwight D Eisenhower remarked, “This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.”
As we celebrate this anniversary, I want to salute the heroism of the men who risked and gave it all that day to secure liberty for us all. D-Day has another significance for me personally.
One year ago, I was in a tough spot. I was undisciplined, depressed, overweight, and struggling. I have always tried to pursue bettering myself, but I had been through a series of defeats and failures, and I didn’t know where to start to make it right.
Good friends had noticed my weight creeping up. They noticed that I was distant. They noticed that I was distracted. Most of them had gotten tired of trying to encourage me. I can still hear the words of my friend Brian, “Josh, what we’re doing here, eating junk food, putting on weight– it’s just slow suicide.”
I wish I could say I let it sink in right away, but it took some time before I had enough pain. And as I’ve heard from other wise friends, “We don’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
I had enough.
So June 6, 2018, was my own personal D-Day. I set my intention on change. I reached out to get help. I changed my diet. I changed my schedule. I started working hard to speak and think differently. I put systems in place to keep my accountable and on track. Like Eisenhower, I said, “There is no alternative. This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Mindset is the first thing that had to change. I used to say, “I am fat.” That directly linked my identity to my problem. Now I say, “I have fat, and I’m working on losing it.” It’s a much more accurate statement. It doesn’t attach my struggle to my identity. It gives me the freedom to see myself and my problems more clearly. I am not my failures. My problems are not me.
It’s been a year. I’m certainly not perfect. I still have a lot of changes to make. I have, though, lost 100 pounds. I have made tremendous strides in my attitude. I have started to become more disciplined, and started accomplishing many of the goals I set for myself a year ago.
I am not writing my successes to be braggadocios, but rather to demonstrate the power of choosing to change. I wasn’t happy with who I was. I wasn’t happy with where I was in my life. I couldn’t make the change on my own, even though I was the only one who could decide to change. I reached out. I got help. I worked my tail off to change the way I thought, spoke, and behaved.
We all have different struggles. We all have parts of our lives that are holding us back, and left unchecked, could destroy us.
What does this have to do with D-Day? Everything.
Maybe what we need is to declare war. Maybe what we need is to rise up and storm the beach.
I recently saw an internet meme that captured my attention. It read, “If you want to honor our military, be the kind of American worth fighting for.”
Maybe that starts with each of us striving to be better– with each of us making a decision– our own personal D-Day.
Josh Hatcher lives in Bradford Pennsylvania, has authored several books including Manlihood: The 12 Pillars of Masculinity American Poetry: Poems for a Wounded Nation and is the founder of Manlihood.com