Note: Usually, I’m a chronological person. That is to say, I prefer to tell stories chronologically. However, due to a lot of things, I don’t think I can tell about our trip to France in a “Day 1, Day 2” sort of manner. It might just be more interesting this way.
Today is D-Day. A little over a week ago, we visited Normandy, the American Cemetery, the Peace Memorial (because that sounds better than “war museum,” which is what it is) at Caen, and Omaha Beach.
You know what I will probably always think of each year on June 6? I will think of how beautiful those Normandy beaches are, especially in the early summer. And also how large they are. And how long the crossing must have been for the Allied forces at half-tide. And how the men in those first boats, those first many, many boats, must have been shot one by one.
Because when you stand up there and look over the expanse of beautiful coastline, man, those beaches are big. And long. And the Nazis had some pretty easy pickings at first.
That had to have been a hard thing to do, being part of the Allied landing crew. Especially if you were among the first to launch and land. Most of those men were younger than I am now. I looked at my boys as they played around at the memorials and overlooking the beaches and I hope that they never see war like that.
The truth is, of course, that they won’t. War is different now. Peace in Europe is different now. Not that the wars that my children might see will be any less horrifying. They’ll just be different.
I take comfort in the fact that, sixty-eight years later, the beaches are beautiful places to throw a stick for your dog and dig in the sand with your kids. We work really hard to remember this war when other wars are forgotten. November 11 is Veteran’s Day, not Armistice Day (WWI). Are there any days of remembrance from the Korean War or the Vietnam War or Desert Storm or the Civil War or the War of 1812? I think the level of atrocity in WWII, the level of casualty, is just astonishing. It was a war fought for the right reasons and deserves to be remembered. It’s nice to know that Normandy works so hard to remember, that the American Cemetery is so well-visited.
But it’s also nice to know that the beaches can be beautiful, tranquil places or recreation again, too.