NORMANDY, March 12, 2008 – I visited the American Cemetery today in Normandy, France. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining and the ocean water glistening as the sun’s rays reflected off it.
The wind was blowing hard and my body shivered as I toured the grounds. But I didn’t even notice that I was cold. Instead I felt thankful for the wind, for it hid my emotional shivers and the tears appearing in the corners of my eyes.
I had never seen a space so beautiful and yet so ugly. As I looked across at the thousands of white crosses and stars of David lined up in perfect rows, all I could picture were the young dead men scattered across the bright, freshly cut green grass.
I stood looking out for I can’t remember how long, just pondering and trying to come to grips with what I was viewing.
The American Cemetery is a stunning sight. At the entrance to the grounds, perfectly trimmed trees and bushes align the red brick path along which you walk. The path winds and turns until you reach a wider path that takes you directly into the cemetery. Large trees that look like homemade popsicles shade this path. They are immaculately trimmed to form a cylinder shape as if you had just pulled them out of the plastic popsicle freezing tray.
From the end of this path you are able to see the ocean water of Omaha Beach. The crashing waves call for you to come closer. The water was various shades of blue and brown, shifting in color as if it were a pattern.
I walked towards the water and from the height that I stood I could see a long stretch of beach that seemed to go on for miles. The beach was clean with smooth, wet sand. A mixture of brown and green brush led up to where I stood. The hill was not too steep and a black pavement path led down unto the beach.
I pictured in my head what the beach would have looked like on June 6, 1944. Tanks would be dispersed along the miles of beach; dead men would be floating in the ocean water; paramedics would be running to help the dying. I had to close my eyes at the thought.
I moved away from this scene and walked back up the red brick path to the burial site of so many American soldiers. I people watched for a moment and noticed two older men, maybe veterans, walk and stop at a tomb. They had gray hair and wrinkles. Their faces were somber. They didn’t speak. I wondered if they knew this man. Maybe they fought with him? Maybe he was their brother?
It was quiet all around the cemetery. I was happy to be wandering alone. I did know what I was looking for and I didn’t know what I would find. I just walked slowly as to take in each cross. To drink up every detail.
I found a soldier from Indiana and I stopped. I knelt down and I noticed he died July 26, 1944. I wondered how old he was; what his family was like; was he in love?
I thought of my fiancé, my brothers, and my cousins. I think about what it would be like to lose one of them. The tears began to appear in my eyes and I bowed my head.
There is no way to describe the feelings you have during a moment like this. When you relate an event such as D-Day to your own life, it makes your problems seem miniscule.
The beauty of the cemetery creates a serene resting place for these heroes. You may see in movies, television shows, or pictures an image of this site, but these do no justice to the actual place in which all this dying occurred.
I can write nothing to make you understand what it is like to be in Normandy. All I can do is suggest you go so you may experience these images and emotions yourself.