I’ve been to Normandy.
I’ve walked on Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. I’ve seen the church that American paratrooper John Steele’s parachute got caught on (he pretended to be dead to avoid being killed). I’ve visited the Airborne Museum and the Utah Beach Museum. I stood at Pointe du Hoc, looked down the treacherous edge, and wondered how on earth Army Rangers had climbed up. I wondered “how did they do it?” a lot at Normandy.
My memories of visiting Normandy have faded a little bit.
I remember Normandy, but not as vividly as I used to. I remember the feelings of being there more than anything. I remember feeling a little strange, walking through a place that was now so beautiful, peaceful, and, in some ways, touristy. It felt strange knowing that years ago, people did not come to this place to take pictures, vacation, or buy postcards. Instead, brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen came to this place and broke through the Atlantic Wall to free Europe from Nazi Germany’s clutches. A battle had raged here, on the beaches, on the cliffs, in the towns.
I felt sad and solemn walking on the beaches, staring at the memorials, hearing the waves hit the sand, and seeing things such as canteens and patches in glass museum cases. While Normandy did feel a little touristy, it was also a very solemn place. It was solemn, as if the places and things, remembered what had happened at Normandy too, and they kept quiet and still in remembrance. It was indeed sobering to know that so many men had died on D-Day.
But there were other feelings that I felt as I wandered around Normandy. Pride was one of those feelings. I felt proud of what the brave servicemen had accomplished at Normandy. And the other feelings were deep gratitude for their sacrifices and service, admiration of their bravery and selflessness, and respect for them. After all…
Because of what happened on June 6, 1944, I am free.
Because of D-Day, I live in a better world. Because of the sacrifices of so many so long ago, I and many others enjoy many freedoms, from the freedom to worship as we please to the freedom to write what we believe. We owe so much to the men who fought for freedom on June 6, 1944.