In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to share some photos from our visit last summer to the Normandy region of France. We visited the U.S. cemetery where almost 10,000 American warriors are interned, and visited what the Allies referred to as Utah Beach at the time of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. I was there with my girlfriend, Mariela, and my two children, Kyle and Emily. The beach was windy and even a little chilly. Several people were out enjoying activities such as kite flying, beach walking, and for a couple of brave souls, swimming. As we walked the beach, taking in the scenery, I could not help but contrast my experience here with what thousands of Allied soldiers must have endured 63 years earlier. Because of movies such as Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day, I am able to picture what it must have been like, but I can never fully know the horror, fear, and shock that those heroes who stormed the beach faced. The Allies were successful in taking the beaches from the Germans, and from there, it was just a matter of time before they pushed their way to Berlin. But not all of the soldiers made it beyond the beaches. It is the sacrifice of those men especially that I would like to honor this Memorial Day.
The American Cemetery at Normandy overlooks Utah Beach. The first thing I noticed at the cemetery was the quietness. Not silence; I could still hear the breeze, the ocean below, and the murmur of voices of the other visitors. There was a stillness that pervaded the area. Like the beach below, this was, I’m sure, completely opposite to what had taken place in July of 1944. Today, this is the most beautiful and serene place that I can imagine. In 1944, it was hell.
One of the best ways to honor our fallen heroes is to teach our children about their sacrifices. My two children were moved by this sacred place, as were Mariela and I. As a teacher, I am saddened and a little disappointed that our teenagers have very little knowledge of the D-Day invasion of the beaches in Normandy, France. This is a day that changed the course of history. We must never forget that the 10,000 soldiers who are buried here made the ultimate sacrifice. And we must never fail to educate future generations of what happened here 63 years ago.