A couple of days ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Normandy, and more specifically, Omaha beach. Truly, I never thought I would stand on the shore that was once a bloody battlefield not so many years ago. The scene was mostly reverent. There were a few children playing along the shore. The tide was low, though not quite as low as it was on DDay. Omaha beach was huge. We sadly only had a few minutes to stand there before we had to leave, but I must say that it was completely surreal.
Prior to Omaha beach, we stopped at Gold beach where we saw a WWII DDay veteran. He was treated like a veritable movie star and rightly so. His name was Stanley Hodge, age 85. He was dressed in his full, decorated, British suit. It literally brought tears to my eyes.
We stopped at Pointe Du Hoc (the cliffs between Utah and Omaha beaches that were heavily bombed by the US prior to DDAY). Huge, HUGE poc marks covered the land. I climbed down into one and was completely hidden (except from Megan who took a picture of me ;) ). As we climbed through the German bunkers, I tried hard to imagine what it must have felt like to be a solider of war, fearing for my life. It was crowded, and there were many children there. They ran carefree over the crater filled land. All because brave men were willing to stand in harms way to protect freedom.
We also visited the American and German cemetaries, each standing in complete contrast with each other. The American cemetary, very reminicent of Arlington cemetary, was very reverent and peaceful. Each grave was marked with a very triumphant looking white marble cross. Heroic monuments, an unknown soldier wall, a reflecting pool and a view of the ocean added to the increible feeling of awe. The German cemetary on the other hand had a very dark feel. Soliders were buried two to a plot. The headstone is a simple greyish brown rock. Clusters of five crosses, made of the same dull material, are interspersed throughout the grass. A large mound in the center, topped with a shapeless mother and father figure (again, same dark stone), solemnly overlook the dead bodies. They wait, watch and mourn for the unknown soliders. Certainly less fanfare for these men and women. I couldn't help but feel a little bad for them. For many of them, it was just a case of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were just fighting for their country; doing as they were told. Though many were very evil at heart, I am certain there were others who were good and just fighting out of circumstance.
It was no doubt one of the most intersteting days of my life. A day I never thought I would experience. More than ever, it was a day that increased my gratitude for my freedom, and for those incredibly brave men who risked their lives to preserve it. Thank you.