Thursday, July 30, 2015

Visit to Normandy Beach

More on my trip to England and France…

Even as a writer, I am often lost for words. Normandy stole my vocabulary.  All I could do was breathe it in. The beach is a very special place for me, a reminder of my youth and family vacations, a place to relax and enjoy the sun and surf...

But Omaha is different.

Omaha Beach isn’t about the sun and the lapping waves. It’s about the souls lost on June 6, 1944. It’s about the ultimate sacrifice thousands of brave, scared young men made that morning. You feel it. It seeps inside of you and you weep for them. I ran as fast as I could, to feel my heart pound and the sand beneath my feet.

If you want to have a vague sense of what it was like that morning, watch the first twenty minutes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and turn the volume up full blast.

When we made the decision to visit Normandy, I contacted Overlord Tours to schedule two days of private tours. If we had rented a car and tried to see the beaches and museums on our own, the driver and navigator wouldn’t have survived the weekend!

With Collin Taylor as we say goodbye!
Our driver/guide was Collin Taylor, an Irishman who has spent the last ten years in France. Collin grew up listening to his grandfather’s stories of World War II and developed a passion for history, and the war in particular. 

We would have missed so much if we hadn’t been with him to hear the stories of what happened on D-Day.

After visiting Omaha, we went to the American Cemetery. Once I left the parking lot and walked onto the grounds, I felt at home. It’s American soil. The plantings are from America and our tax dollars are well spent maintaining the immaculate 172.5 acres. 

There are 9,387 United States military dead. Most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. There are three Medal of Honor recipients and forty-one sets of brothers.

A time capsule is embedded in the lawn. It contains news reports of the Normandy landings. The capsule is to be opened on June 6, 2044. The plaque is engraved with the inscription “In memory of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the forces under his command. This sealed capsule containing news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings is placed here by the newsmen who were here, June 6, 1969.” I’ll be 94, but what a thrill it will be for the next generation to be there to honor those whose lives ended that day, a day we will always remember.

If you ever have a chance to visit Normandy, don’t miss it. You will be changed by the experience. Thank you, Ken, for sharing it with me!

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