“In my yellow-trimmed bassinet, tucked into the corner of the dining room, I was oblivious to the swirl of history-making world events reported each day on the radio. D-Day was still four months away. Many men in our small town were soldiers in the Pacific, and an uncle was missing in action somewhere in Europe. Since Dad worked for an industry vital to the war effort, he stayed on the home front. I never would have been born if my father had been called into military service. My sisters remember ration coupons, victory gardens, and life-altering telegrams from the War Department, as well as dancing in the streets on VE and VJ Day. As for me, I cried, nursed, and slept through it all.” (Excerpt from my memoir Born Three Times)
June 6, 1944 has been commemorated for over 74 years as the day of the invasion of France and the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Hitler and his murderous regime. Commonly called D-Day, the Allied invasion force stormed fifty miles of the Normandy coast on five different beaches. The logistics and tremendous sacrifice involved in such a massive operation became apparent to us during our recent visit to the historical site. Emotions were close to the surface as we looked out over Omaha Beach. The site of the U.S. landing and the white crosses and stars of David that climbed the grassy hill commemorated over 9,400 soldiers and pilots buried there.
Viking Cruise arranged a special ceremony for us at the site. As the Stars & Stripes flew in a bright blue sky, we all sang the Star Spangled Banner, followed by a recorded version of taps, and a moment of silence. Then the veterans in the group, including Charles, were recognized. Each of us was given a flower to place on a grave. Charles & I chose to place our flowers on the graves of the fallen from the states where we were born—New York and Tennessee. We prayed for those whose lives were cut short so that we can be free from tyranny today.
A breath-taking sculpture stood overlooking the cemetery in honor of those who paid it all. The statue is a representation of a soldier rising from the water with his hand toward heaven. It is a visual reminder of the brevity of life.
As we traveled along the beaches, we saw the location of an artificial port build by the Allies. Remnants of the amazing feat of engineering are still visible in the water. In order to supply the thousands of troops, since the Germans controlled all the ports, caissons and piers were floated across the English Channel in order to construct an artificial port at Arromanches, France. Once constructed, tons of material could be loaded onto the beach and trucked inland to supply the fighters. Those who operated the supply lines are the unsung heroes of the invasion force.
Our last stop on Normandy was to the water’s edge at Omaha Beach. It was like walking on holy ground as we walked on the sand and looked up at the remaining German bunkers that dotted the hillside. We left that place thankful and blessed to have lived in a free country bought with the blood of others.
I was reminded of John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”