Being a team player goes two ways

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By John Barnhart

    A couple of weeks ago, I urged people who don’t think a bust of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin belongs at the National D-Day Memorial to be team players as far as the Memorial, itself, goes. It’s really hard to do that when D-Day Memorial Foundation decision makers apparently won’t let them do it.

    As I’ve mentioned, Stalin became an ally by default in World War II. At the beginning, he was on Hitler’s side. He spurned overtures from the British. He provided oil and strategic raw materials to Germany’s war industry. Raw material of  East Asian origin, such as rubber, was shipped by railroad across the Soviet Union. Stalin also desperately wanted to join the Tirpartite Pact, the alliance among the fascist powers of Germany, Italy and Japan, even if this meant eventually going to war with the United States. Germany kept ignoring or stalling Stalin’s attempt to join up, something that confused Stalin. The Soviet dictator didn’t know that he was Hitler’s next target after France capitulated and the Nazi dictator thought he had Britain whipped.

    It was only when Stalin found himself alone on the European continent with Nazi Germany, and  in a fight for his life when German troops surged into the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, that he joined the fight against Hitler. President Franklin Roosevelt initially found it difficult to sell the American public on the idea of aiding the Soviet Union as that country was a dictatorship with no religious freedom.

    Among the rights that the First Amendment to our Constitution mentions, along with religious freedom, is the right to peaceful protest. The D-Day Foundation’s decision makers apparently think that its volunteers abandon their First Amendment rights when they volunteer to serve at the Memorial.

    Bob Lindell, a D-Day volunteer until he was given the right foot of fellowship, is a member of Bedford’s American Legion Post. When the Legion post organized a demonstration, protesting the Stalin bust along Burks Hill Road near the Memorial’s entrance, Lindell joined the demonstration rather than go to an invitation-only farewell reception for Dr. William McIntosh. Lindell had an invitation.

    Lindell volunteers at the D-Day Memorial every week. He was on the schedule for June 18, four days after the protest and two days after a photo of him, holding a sign at the protest, appeared in the Bedford Bulletin. After conducting a tour that afternoon, Jim McCann, the Memorial’s site operations manager, gave him the boot. The reason was not his performance as a tour guide, it was the fact that he participated in the protest.

    This is a bizarre, shabby and shameful way to treat a volunteer worker. In the first place, volunteers are donating their time and a non-profit should be grateful to them for doing that.

    Secondly, this action makes it impossible for people who love the D-Day Memorial, but detest the Stalin bust, to be team players. Apparently they are expected to either walk away from the Memorial, or keep their mouths shut.

    Finally, it was a shameful thing for the D-Day Memorial Foundation to do in light of what the National D-Day Memorial stands for. Those young men did not do what they did on June 6, 1944, because they thought that landing on a French beach and meeting a bunch of German soldiers, who would do their best to kill them, sounded like great fun. They did it in defense of those very freedoms that Bob Lindell was exercising when he took part in a peaceful protest. Defending these freedoms is why Lindell donned the uniform of the United States Navy in the 1950s. It’s why today’s Bedford Boys are currently in Iraq escorting supply convoys.

    Hopefully Robin Reed, the Foundation’s new president, will correct this travesty.