I was exactly seven months old on June 6, 1944, I have no memory of the War and certainly not D-Day. Like most Americans I have read about it, studied it in school and watched documentaries on television. None of that could possibly make us understand what it was like. I always wanted to see it for myself, to get a sense of what they were talking about and to feel the place. I was lucky enough to be able to do that. I was there on a cold, rainy, windy day much like June 6 so long ago. Unknown to me until I was standing in the U.S. Cemetery, I was there with a man who landed on the beach.
Much of what you see is untouched from that day, German guns still point to the sea, bomb craters still pock the land, machine gun pill boxes remain in the hills and remnants of the artificial breakwater still sit in the sea.
It is hard to imagine any American standing and looking out over 10,000 white crosses and Stars of David, listening to the Star Spangled Banner and Taps and not having to wipe his or her eyes, I certainly was not immune. A caretaker handed out flowers and urged each of us to place the flower on the grave of a soldier from our state. An easy task made difficult because there were so many to choose from and most forever teenagers.
Visiting Normandy was a life-long goal of mine. It would be well if every American could make the trip and learn why we should never forget our history and to teach our children well. History matters and so does the sacrifices of generations past.
- A poignant visit to France’s D-Day beaches (seattletimes.nwsource.com)