- - Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A chat with a well-intentioned millennial convinced Michael Reagan that he should get personally involved in keeping the memory of D-Day alive.

Former President Ronald Reagan’s 73-year-old son was playing golf with a young restaurant manager roughly four years ago when Normandy entered the conversation. Mr. Reagan shared his plan to visit the French region to raise the U.S. flag at an American cemetery.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Why is there an American cemetery in Normandy?’” Mr. Reagan recalled. “I think this is normal, and that’s what really bothered me.”

It’s why the Reagan Legacy Foundation, which the former president’s eldest son founded, is creating a memorial walkway in the most appropriate place possible. Dubbed “The Walkway to Victory,” the installation connects the four buildings that comprise the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Normandy, France.

The museum stands on the ground where the D-Day invasion began on June 6, 1944.

“All these [now] 95-year-old men … jumped out of planes at 17 years of age. We have a group of young people [today] who don’t get it,” Mr. Reagan said.

The memorial honors American, British and Canadian soldiers who helped liberate France and other European nations in the Second World War.

The walkway will be composed of bricks engraved with the names of living and deceased veterans who fought in the European theater.

Each brick can be purchased with a tax-deductible donation of $250 to the Reagan Legacy Foundation. Funds will go to educational efforts tied to restoring freedom as well as scholarships for the men and women serving on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

For Mr. Reagan, D-Day was “the day America said, ‘We’re not going to take this anymore. We’re going to save the world.’”

Code-named Operation Overlord, the Battle of Normandy lasted from June to August and liberated Western Europe from Adolf Hitler’s iron fist. Roughly 156,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers landed along five beaches in the Normandy region.

Mr. Reagan regularly speaks with students about why the battle still matters.

Philanthropy is nothing new to Mr. Reagan, a former talk show host, author and Republican strategist. The president’s adopted son recently helped send 1,500 foster children to their first Los Angeles Dodgers ballgame. He serves as chairman of the John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation and is a familiar presence at the Young America’s Foundation, located at his father’s ranch in Santa Barbara, California.

“Docents know stories, but they don’t know the back stories. Those are the things I get involved in,” he said. “If I can use that celebrity, if you will, to be able to help kids — foster kids, abused kids — and do stuff at the ranch that honors my father …”

He is particularly proud of the scholarships tied to the USS Ronald Reagan, an ongoing effort affecting people from all walks of life. He takes that mission personally.

“If I didn’t visit the USS Ronald Reagan … I feel I’d be doing something terribly wrong,” he said.

He also is cheering on a man whom some have compared to his father, at least from a legislative point of view. The two leaders may be miles apart in personality, but Mr. Reagan applauds how President Trump is reshaping the U.S. economy.

“You may not like him, but your taxes are better, the market is better, unemployment is better. If Hillary [Clinton] were elected, where would we be today?” he said.

That is a far cry from what his sister, Patti Davis, penned this week for The Washington Post. She said her late father would be appalled by Mr. Trump’s actions in the Oval Office.

Mr. Reagan begs to differ. He even left a message for President-elect Trump shortly after the real estate mogul’s shocking electoral victory on Nov. 8, 2016. He congratulated Mr. Trump on his triumph and welcomed him into the “first-family family.”

“A couple of hours later, the phone rings and it’s Donald Trump,” Mr. Reagan said. “The first thing he says to me, ‘You know, you didn’t support me during the primaries.’ I said, ‘No, but I did after you won the nomination.’”

Mr. Trump wasn’t done, Mr. Reagan said. The president-elect told Mr. Reagan, “I didn’t know your father, but I liked him. Because I liked him, I like you.”


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