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Importance of knowing our history is dwindling

Last week we observed the 75th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, and I was surprised at the lack of historic programming that appeared on TV to remember the day.

I have in the past recalled that my father was a combat medic who landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, so in the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I have a personal reason for being upset. But it goes past Dad’s participation in the landing; he was one of 156,000 Allied soldiers to land at one of five beaches on the Normandy Coast — 4,000 of whom never made it.

I know the television networks covered the commemorative events, but without the documentaries and film footage of the invasion to put those events into context, I’m afraid the coverage may have been lost on many people, and that is a tragedy.

Out of all the satellite and network channels available to a nation of viewers, I only recall the National Geographic Channel presenting programs on World War II and the invasion, but since my satellite plan does not include all the stations available through my service, I’m sure there were other programs I didn’t see.

But my complaint goes beyond being upset over a possible lack of programming on one of the most important events in history. It seems the importance of knowing our nation’s history is starting to dwindle.

For some reason, it seems we take important dates and events in our history with a relaxed attitude. We recognize days like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but fail to emphasize or explain why we celebrate it; in many cases it seems these holidays are used more as an excuse for sales than remembrance. We no longer seem to care about the day or the reason.

I know some people will argue that we as a nation take history seriously, and point to the popularity of the Vicksburg National Military Park, and I agree that yes, history is alive and well in Vicksburg, but that’s because here we live it every day. I doubt the average person outside of our city could tell you who Gen. Pemberton was or what kind of boat the Cairo was, or the length of the siege.

And I wonder if, had it not been for the D-Day observance on the networks, many people outside of Baby Boomers or history buffs would understand what it was all about. That’s why I believe we’re losing our sense of history; the context of who we are, how we got to where we are and how we can use the past to make our lives better.

We need to learn not just our own past but the history of every group that makes up our population to make us a better, more integrated country.

And by the way, in December we have another 75th anniversary of a major event in history, the Battle of the Bulge.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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