...It's All In The Experience

Remembering Normandy……

d day beaches

When June begins, and the anniversary of D-Day approaches, I can’t help but think about my time to Normandy. On one particular occasion when visiting the area with a dear friend whose own father was in WWII (though not in Europe) the idea of visiting the beaches and the American Cemetery on his behalf, was something very important to to her.

My dear friend shares the following with us about her experience.

We took a small group tour with 5 other people. A father and his son, and a french couple, both older, who were visiting with their granddaughter. Our guide spoke both french and english, so she was able to serve as a translator for all of us.

It was very early April, and typical of spring weather, was cold, dreary and sleeting. I can remember standing on the bluff above the beach with the wind turning my umbrella inside out while the cold sleet pelted me. It was absolutely miserable, and yet, I was struck by the reality of what our military experienced that day. Wading ashore, cold, wet, and scared….and watching several thousand of their fellow soldiers being slaughtered before their eyes. I could almost see how it unfolded while standing on that bluff, but thankfully without living through it myself.

The sky brightened and the sleet stopped before we got to the American Cemetery, which I was grateful for. My umbrella was rendered useless by the previous winds on the bluff, and we needed a little warmth to dry out. Strolling the grounds of the cemetery was something I will never forget. There is a sense of peace and honor there amid the impeccably manicured grounds (thanks to the French who tend it), not unlike the 9/11 Memorial in New York, which I recently visited. There is anguish over the number of crosses you see, uniformly spaced, thousands in number, starkly white against the green lawn. It was sobering to see how many were there, but I had been to Arlington Cemetery and was surprised by the number there as well. These crosses represented almost 10,000 military, most killed during the Normandy invasion, not over a number of years and a number of battles, which made it that much more meaningful and weighty. You cannot stand amidst those markers and not be moved by the sacrifice made by these men, some of them, barely into their manhood. A sacrifice made for not just their fellow Americans, but for those who lived in a country whose language they did not even speak.

As we traveled back in the van, our guide translated a message from the elderly french couple who were touring with their granddaughter. It seems they were children of a village liberated during WWII by the Americans. The elderly gentleman told our translator that he remembered the soldiers riding through their village throwing the children gum and candy from their tanks.

The message they wanted relayed to us, two Americans? Simply…… “Thank you.”

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