What can we know, today, a full three quarters of a century later, about how those men felt as they stepped onto the beach at Normandy and the machine guns began blazing?

From our vantage point today, after decades of cultural battering at American sentiments of patriotic loyalty to country from educational and media institutions, it is just about impossible, especially for young people, to understand or appreciate the world in which those 18-year-old Americans in the Higgins boats on June 6, 1944, lived and died.

The best way to try to do it is to find a veteran of that war and talk to him. They are dwindling, these patriots, as the time passes, but there are still some of them left. Perhaps 500,000 or so.

But they are now very old men, and they will not be here forever.

Find one. Talk to him.

Better still, listen to him.

Alexander Riley,