As dozens of people Thursday walked around the National World War II Memorial fountain on the National Mall, an intimate group gathered at the Circle of Remembrance, the highest point of the WWII Memorial overlooking the Atlantic pillar. It was there that Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, modestly marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, reciting President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s now-famous prayer for the day.
“The prayer was saying it was going to be tough. It wasn’t saying it’s going to be easy,” Mr. Portman told those gathered for the event. “It was calling for us to have faith — faith in those men, faith in our God, faith in our country.”
Roosevelt’s hand-written prayer was first heard in a national radio address that fateful June day in 1944, as American and allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. Over 100 million American citizens heard the president’s prayer.
“To me, this is one of the most powerful statements any president has ever made,” said Mr. Portman. “My favorite part of the prayer is when he says that these soldiers … are not there for conquest. They’re there for liberation.”
The lawmakers and others who gathered at the site previewed the new, temporary plaque bearing Roosevelt’s words. A fund-raising drive for a permanent installation is underway.
Chris Long, president of Ohio Christian Alliance, originally petitioned for the D-Day prayer to be displayed at the WWII Memorial in 2011 and has spent the last seven years raising money for the privately-funded project. The project was personal for Mr. Long, who said he had family members who served in the war.
“It’s because of their honor that this prayer will be a lasting tribute to them,” he said.
Mr. Long said that the entirety of the prayer, some 515 words, will be eventually displayed on four bronze plaques on a granite pedestal. He hopes that families, youth and religious groups will come to the location and read the prayer aloud.
Among those observing Thursday’s ceremony was Lynda Bowers, who traveled from Madina, Ohio for the occasion. She, too, had family that served in WWII and landed “on that beach.”
“Imagine what this world would be like if that hadn’t happened,” Ms. Bowers said. “… I think it’s important that we don’t lose that history and that people understand the significance. I think that prayer goes a long way to invoke that thought process.”
Sen. Portman and fellow Ohio Republican Rep. Bill Johnson authored the World War II Memorial Prayer Act which was signed into law in 2014. The temporary plaque at the ceremony previewed Thursday was donated to the Friends of the National WWII Memorial in honor of the veterans and their families.