Senator John Thune
Throughout South Dakota and across the nation, friends and families will gather this July 4th to celebrate our nation's independence. While it is a day of national pride, the parade of backyard barbeques, endless red, white, and blue paraphernalia, and community fireworks displays can sometimes make it easy to overlook the true celebration of our freedoms paid for by the sacrifices of so many Americans before us.
We pay tribute to the thousands of South Dakotans who have worn our country’s uniform and fought with honor and valor, remembering the battles and victories that forever changed the course of history. This year, our country marked the 70th anniversary of the heroic landings of D-Day. The incredible bravery exhibited on June 6th, 1944, is one of the defining moments of modern history. The men and women who answered the call to serve in World War II, and those who supported them on the home front, are often revered as “the Greatest Generation.” They gave up their lives and their livelihoods, endured separation from their loved ones, and fought in unspeakable conditions. From the beaches of Normandy to the islands of the Pacific, where my father served as a Navy pilot, the United States and Allied Forces fought for freedom and the dignity of mankind. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.
In June, I was honored to join my father, Harold, at the dedication of a memorial statue at Northern State University of World War II fighter pilot and Cresbard native, Cecil Harris. My father and Harris were squadron mates during World War II, fighting alongside one another in the Pacific. Harris went on to become the second highest-scoring Navy ace in U.S. history with 24 victories over a mere five weeks. Harris, who was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his distinguished service, went on to serve our great state as a teacher and principal in the Cresbard community. North State University’s statue of Harris is a fitting tribute to a man whose heroism, bravery, and service made a lasting impact on both his country and his community.As we celebrate the stars and stripes this Fourth of July, we also honor those who served and continue to serve our great nation, paying tribute to them by upholding the values for which they continue to fight. Kimberley and I wish all South Dakotans a happy and safe Fourth of July, and pray God will continue to bless the United States of America.