FORT POLK — On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of France’s Normandy coastline in the largest amphibious assault in history, now known as D-Day. German Nazi troops were in heavily fortified bunkers overlooking the beaches, ready to inflict countless casualties.

Today, 74 years later, historians still marvel at the ability of the invasion force to eventually overrun the enemy and start the end to World War II.

Against seemingly insurmountable odds, the Allied forces pushed the Nazis back from the shoreline and established a beachhead, allowing more troops to joint the fight and send the Germans retreating.

As an 8-year-old, I remember watching a documentary on CBS called “D-Day plus 20 years.” I believe watching that program led to me to an interest in the military that resulted in an Army career and my current job as editor of a newspaper that serves the Soldiers and Family members of Fort Polk.

I was moved to tears as I saw combat footage of Soldier after Soldier assaulting fortifications under a barrage of enemy fire, their bodies riddled by bullets, falling onto rolls of razor, never to know their home again.

These were American men who volunteered to fight an enemy on foreign soil to halt the spread of the ideology of a madman, intent on world domination.

I was amazed at the ability of the Army’s 75th Rangers, who in the face of German hand grenades and machine-gun fire, gained a foothold on a thin strip of beach before scaling 100-foot cliffs to knock out guns raining fire on Allied ships.

I remember being stunned by the footage of waves, lapping the beach and the bodies of Soldiers as they lay partially covered in the surf, unseeing eyes open to the sky.

Those visions remain indelibly imprinted in my mind. That these men would volunteer to fight an enemy so far away from their homes made an impression on this third-grader from West Monroe, Louisiana. They were true heroes.

Fast forward to today, and I realize things aren’t much different. We still have young Soldiers — volunteers — who travel halfway around the world to fight an enemy that seeks world domination. Instead of hand grenades, it’s rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, but those weapons kill and maim the same as those wielded by Nazi Germany.

There aren’t many World War II veterans left who took part in the Normandy invasion and fought their way across France and Germany to ensure the freedom we have today. Most have gone on to where old Soldiers go to rest.

But there are still a few among us, and I encourage everyone to seek them out and thank them for their service and sacrifice.

As we approach D-Day, I would also remind you there are heroes on Fort Polk today who are returning to their Families after deploying to the Middle East to fight terrorism. Please seek them out and thank them also — their service and sacrifice is just as great as those of the “Greatest Generation.” Perhaps 74 years from now it will be the men and women fighting today who earn that title.