Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our visit to Omaha Beach

We began our trip to France with a stop in Normandy. The Mister has always wanted to visit the D-Day beaches. With the passing of his grandfather, a WWII vet who flew missions over France and Germany during the war, a visit to the American Cemetery in Normandy was fitting.

It's no secret that the Mister and I are patriotic Americans, so as we got ready to head to the train station that morning I gave fair warning: "There will be tears today." I am always moved by stories of veterans and the selflessness of the Greatest Generation always makes me so proud of my country and the men and women who have served it.

I did not expect to have such a peaceful, calm experience. The cemetery and memorials are all set up extremely well and takes the sacrifice of thousands and contrasts it with the beauty of Omaha Beach.

The reflecting pool at the end of the welcome center that overlooks Omaha Beach. 
We learned that of the thousands of American soldiers who were originally buried in France, 60% of them were returned to the States to be buried in a final resting place for their families' choosing. There are 9,387 American citizens buried in Normandy, and 1,557 MIA soldiers commemorated.

Among the buried is included 45 sets of brothers, including two of the Niland brothers, on which the movie Saving Private Ryan is based. There are 3 Congressional Medal of Honor winners, including Teddy Roosevelt's son, Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

There is a lovely chapel in the middle of the burial plots where families and visitors can reflect on what happened on this and the other Normandy beaches in July 1944.

There are several paths that lead from the cemetery to the beach and it is oddly sirene.

Our guide (there are free tours in English every day at 2pm) explained that on D-Day, all the brush would have been cleared from the steep hill to eliminate any possible hiding places.  

The beach is now a protected natural site.

It was hard to imagine this beach covered in obstructions and the bodies of Allied soldiers. Someone said that at low tide you can still see evidence of the obstacles placed there by the Germans.

I'm so grateful we got the opportunity to see such an historically valuable place and a chance to contemplate the sacrifices thousands of young Americans--including my grandfather-in-law and his twin brother-- made.

Vicariously yours,

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