In late April of 2008, as part of a river boat cruise in the Seine, we visited the beaches of Normandy. There we visited a D-Day Museum at Gold Beach, where the English successfully set up a floating harbor. The town was Arromanches, and I was struck by the timeless nature of the village and the countryside. That is, it seemed frozen in time to 1944, as it would have been before the invasion. There were no fast food restaurants or resort hotels or casinos, even though this was an area of beautiful beaches.
It was like that all along the coast there. It became clear that this is hallowed ground. The French have kept it pristine, with the original small villages and farms and pastures. It was all so peaceful, not at all like the day that we commemorate today, 70 years later.
We visited several beaches. There are just enough remnants of war there to remind us of what took place; a tank here, a pontoon there, a piece of floating bridge, a landing craft.
And the American Cemetery. It began to rain while we were there, and we finally had to take shelter in the new visitors center, but not before we strolled the rows of markers, reading names and nationalities. Yes, there are others there too, besides Americans.
I was struck by all of the flowers placed in the semi-circular monument. The tag I looked at just said "Troop". It appears that the French people keep the monument supplied with memorial flowers. There is no question that the French still honor the liberators who landed that terrible day, and the terrible days that followed.
I have photos of that experience in an album, but unfortunately we cannot find the original photos from the digital camera. I have just this one that I posted in 2008.
But I do have my journal. Here is what I wrote about my visit to the cemetery:
While many others found the experience moving, I feel that my emotions tend toward anger and despair; anger over the suffering caused by war and despair that we don't learn.
And yet WWII was different. Hitler was a great evil and had to be stopped.
If there is such a thing as a just war, I guess this was it. There is no question about the bravery and sacrifice made by those who fought for liberty and freedom, and their families as well.
Today we honor them once again.