To begin with, school would finally be out. What child did not long for the end of the school year after nine long months of confinement? To be sure, June also meant that my chores quickly doubled up. With long days and plenty of sunshine, ample time had to be spent on seasonal tasks. From sun up to sundown, these long days would often be filled with cutting grass, gathering hay, and working in the garden.
But this was all bearable because June also brought summer fun. Some of these were simple daily pastimes to enjoy, such as catching June Bugs and Lightning Bugs (or Fireflies, depending upon what part of the country in which you grew up) in the yard and tadpoles in the pond.
Other pleasures were even more fun. Swimming, cookouts, family reunions - all these things happened in the month of June as well. As did annual trips with my family to nearby state parks for camping, boating, fishing, and similar such activities.
And then there were all the goings-on at church as well. Among them, “Vacation Bible School” was always a highlight. As were the annual “Homecomings”, “Dinner on the Grounds”, and “Sunday Night Sings”.
As I grew, the month took on even more significance, as I realized that my grandmother, Junie Mae, celebrated her birthday on the first day of June. It seems she was born right at midnight, so she was named for both months. Either way, it was always an occasion for yet another big celebration within our family.
Later on, when I first met my bride to be in high school, I quickly discovered that her birthday too fell in the first week of June. Thereafter, each of these two special women in my life helped to underscore the significance of the month of June.
Along the way, I discovered that June was the month for Father's Day to be celebrated. As I grew and matured, I loved finding ways to do special things for my dad on that day. (Later on, as a father myself, I was to be on the receiving end of such blessings.)
June would also become the month when I graduated from High School, as well as college. It would also become the month when my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Nor did we know at that time that our daughter would choose our own wedding anniversary date for the day of her wedding, giving even more special meaning to a certain day in June.
By God’s grace, this month marks my 60th time to experience these and many other blessings of the month of June. For all of this, I am extremely thankful. Only now, that appreciation runs a little deeper; for I have also come to know and appreciate the sacrifices so many others made in order that I might enjoy all this month has to offer.
June also sees the annual celebration of Flag Day. Each year, as this unique day rolls around, I am reminded of what that the stars and stripes stands for, as well as the exploits of those in previous generations whose sacrifices helped to ensure it still proudly flies today.
Specifically, I have in mind two great events that unfolded in the first week of June over three quarters of a century ago. The first occurred over a three day period from June 4-6, 1942. I refer of course to the World War Two Battle of Midway. While still reeling from the attack at Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy surprised the Japanese by bombing Tokyo in April of 1942. A month later, the enemy was met and engaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea. More or less considered a draw, each side lost one aircraft carrier and multiple ships.
But barely one month later, in the first week of June, the U.S. Navy surprised the Japanese Imperial Navy by ambushing them in their attempted invasion of Midway Island. In the fierce three day long battle that followed, the Japanese lost four of their front line carriers, with the U.S. losing only two. From this point forward, therefore, Japanese expansion was over. The U.S. was now on the offensive; and the tide of war had forever changed. Granted, it would take three more years of hard fighting in multiple vicious island hopping campaigns, but Japan’s fate had already been sealed.
Two years later, the first week of June would also bring about a change in the tide of war in Europe as well. While the U.S. and her allies had earlier invaded North Africa and Italy on dates labeled “D-Day”, June 6, 1944 will forever be remembered for this singular designation. On this date, also referred to as the “Day of Days”, the largest seaborne invasion in recorded history unfolded in which 195,000 Allied personnel in over 5,000 ships descended upon the coast of Axis-occupied Normandy, France to begin the liberation of Western Europe from four long years of tyranny and oppression.
Histories, documentaries, novels, and movies now exhaustively document the titanic struggles that took place between good and evil in the skies and seas around Midway and on the shores of Normandy. And yet, there are no doubt untold numbers of stories of courage and bravery that unfolded in these eventful days that only eternity will reveal.
For my part, I have come to realize that the simple pleasures and privileges I shared in the opening lines of this blog post would never have been possible without the willingness of countless individuals - soldiers, sailors, and airmen alike - who readily gave of themselves by going into harm’s way in order to secure my freedom. Ultimately, 307 Allied personnel died in the Battle of Midway, as did another 4,414 at Normandy. These fatalities do not include the 10,000+ casualties suffered as well.
But these sacrifices were not without cause. They resulted in the freeing of the world from fascist domination and oppression. As one who grew up enjoying the simple freedoms that entails, I will forever be mindful of these sacrifices on my behalf. And I will do my best to make sure that my children and grandchildren are as well. Every June, as long as I draw breath, they will hear of the great sacrifice that made their freedom possible. We will then celebrate all that freedom has brought us.