Monday, May 25, 2009

Today, I Remember…

My wife and I had the privilege of visiting Paris twice over the last six years. For me, the first trip was the most memorable, as it was my first time in that city. We immersed ourselves in everything that we could for seven straight days. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know that this is not nearly enough to see all that the city has to offer.

One of the most memorable days of our trip was a day spent driving back and forth from a little town called Colleville-sur-Mer, on the northwest coast of France. The area is more commonly known as Normandy, and it contains the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. You may remember seeing it at the beginning and end of the movie Saving Private Ryan.

Visiting the cemetery was a sobering experience for me. Overlooking Omaha Beach, it is now a perfectly manicured resting place for 9,387 American soldiers who died in World War II. The majority of the men buried there were killed during the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

Today is Memorial Day, when we take time to recall the military men and women who gave their lives to ensure the ongoing freedoms in our country. I’m continually amazed at the stories of sacrifice that came from the various conflicts in which our nation has been involved. And nothing has moved me more than walking through that pristine cemetery in France. Today, I remember:

· The perfect alignment of every headstone – some represented by crosses, some by the Star of David. These men’s graves are being properly attended to.
· The sheer number of graves and the size of the cemetery is staggering
· Omaha Beach, which lies directly between the cemetery and the ocean, is very steep. It must have been a challenge for men to get across the beach, up that hill, and to the Germans who were posted at the top of the rise in machine-gun bunkers.
· Unlike most cemeteries, where people are buried facing east (presumably to face Jesus when he “splits the eastern sky”), these men are all buried facing west, toward their homeland of the United States
· There is a memorial and statue at one end of the cemetery. On the walls of the memorial are over 1500 names – men who were lost in the conflict, but were never found.

Lastly, I think of the determination of these men, as portrayed in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, when their troop landing craft were approaching the beach. Moments away, the door at the front of the craft would be lowered, and there would likely be an enemy machine gun pointed at the men as they ran for the beach. They went anyway.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

This is a beautiful tribute, honey. I, too, will never forget what it felt like to stand in that cemetery and ponder all those lives that were given for my freedom.