73rd Anniversary

Remembering those that bravely served in the allied invasion of France on the 73rd Anniversary of D-Day.

Source: Memorial Day

Advertisements

Memorial Day

Several years ago we were in France for our dear friend’s wedding.  After enjoying the incredible ceremony and party, we headed to Normandy and Paris.  After a brief pit stop in the beautiful seaside town of Honfleur, we headed to Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery.   We knew it would be a tough place to visit, but I truly don’t think we understood just how powerful and emotional the visit would be.

trumanquote

From the moment we stepped onto Omaha Beach, you could feel the death, destruction and despair that had occurred there as if it had just happened.  The feeling was palpable and inescapable.  We started our visit by walking down to the beach where our troops handed landed.  When the attack was launched, it was planned to begin 1-3 hours after low tide, which represented a compromise between the Army and the Navy.  When we visited the beach that day, it was low tide.  As we stood on the beach looking at the beachhead, I couldn’t help but imagine how it must have looked to our troops on June 6, 1944.  The cliffs are steep and were heavily fortified.  As they made their way up the beach, grenades and mines would detonate.  That fateful day 6,600 American soldiers were killed in action, wounded or went missing in action.

enhance (2)

Over the course of the campaign to secure the beachhead, June 6, 1944 to August 21, 1944, 72,911 Americans were killed or went missing in action.  Omaha Beach present day is serene, beautiful and quiet, but the overwhelming feeling of loss that was omnipresent made for hard juxtaposition. It was almost hard to imagine the carnage that had happened in this beautiful place except for the pain of walking on hallowed ground in omnipresent.

omahabeach

We left the beach and began to walk through the cemetery.  It is here that over 9,000 men who died in the Normandy campaign are buried.  They came from all 50 states and were so young.   As we walked through the cemetery, I couldn’t hold back the tears.  The tomb of the unknown soldiers, of which there are many in Normandy, was difficult to see as a mother.  I could not imagine the pain their mothers endured never knowing what happened to their son and never having closure. My heart ached for them.

We were there in 2011, 67 years after the D-Day Invasion. There were flowers and personal notes left on several graves, which took me aback.  Sixty seven years later, the pain of loss from World War II was still very real.  The wounds of war are slow to heal.  We left the American Cemetery quietly and without speaking we headed to lunch.   The experience was heavy, emotional and one that took several days to digest before any of us could speak about it.

flowersatnormandy

The American Cemetery was humbling visualization of how many brave soldiers, sailors and airmen were willing to go to their death to preserve our freedom.  Amazingly,  it is representative of only one campaign in one war.  In the course of American history, we have lost 651,008 servicemen and women.  This Memorial Day we remember those that paid the ultimate price to preserve our freedom.  The deep sense of gratitude hardly seems adequate for the price they paid.  Lastly, we hold near their families, friends, and battle buddies, who still feel the pain of their loss.  

 

Mont St. Michel

montstmichelindistance

There have been many people, places and events that have left an indelible impression on my life.  One my favorite places can be found in the Normandy region of France.  Mont St. Michel appears almost as if it is an apparition in the distance as you approach via car.  It looks as if it is a castle rising out of the Atlantic.  Undoubtedly, there is something so absolutely and hauntingly beautiful about Mont St. Michel and something exciting about exploring its narrow winding paths and stairways.   The architecture of Mont St. Michel is breathtaking in its beauty and each of its evolutions and layers.  You can see the progression of culture vis-à-vis the evolution in architecture seen in the abbey’s construction, which is absolutely fascinating.

 

While Mont St. Michel is fairly commercialized now, we did still find it possible to get lost and explore a bit.  As the tide rises and falls at Mont St. Michel, it intoxicates you.  It both rushes in and rushes out, much different from how our tides behave here in Florida.  The difference in between low and high tides at Mont St. Michel is nothing short of astounding.  In low tide, you can walk to the abbey (if you choose, but beware of quicksand.)  If you try walking to the abbey during high tide, you’ll need either water wings or to stay on the paved road that now leads to island.

stmichelebay

Aside from the natural and manmade beauty that bounds at Mont St. Michel, it is a feat of human ingenuity and engineering. It is amazing to me that they were able to build such an amazing structure on this island without a paved road and without modern machinery.  It almost seems impossible.  I think that the beauty in travelling is discovering places like Mont St. Michel that speak to you and leave a lasting impression on your soul.

theabbeyatdusk

As our kids grow older, we’re trying to instill in them that experiences/trips are more fruitful and significantly more meaningful than material goods.  Often these experiences and trips are shared with people who have made deep and beautiful impressions on our souls.  When I’m confident that they won’t break something in the Abbey I cannot afford to replace, I will certainly bring them.  I know, I know, after last night’s blog you’re probably thinking I’ll be waiting a long time and you’re probably right.  Can you imagine figs catapulting in the bay from Mont St Michel?   With my boys in the Abbey, I certainly could.