Last week, I went on my educational field trip with my university to the beaches of Normandy. We spent an entire day learning about the D-day beaches as we saw the places where the brave soldiers of World War II fought and died. At the museum in Arromanche I learned about the construction of the port of Arromanche in 1944. When no port existed for the June 6th landing, Winston Churchill said let’s build one. Thus the necessary concrete platforms to break the water were constructed in England and towed across the English Channel to create the port of Arromanche. Some of these platforms still remain today. I was struck by the audacity of Churchill and the success of his plan as the port made all the difference in getting the soldiers food and supplies necessary to defeat the Nazi regime.
Of all the things I saw last week, however, the American Cemetery at the beaches of Omaha will forever remain ingrained in my memory. I was told as we entered that the land on which the cemetery lies was given by France to the American government. After one month of being abroad, I was finally on American soil. And as odd as it sounds, it felt like being home. There was almost an instant change in feeling that overcame our group as we walked through the entrance and saw the names of missing soldiers. Despite my disappointment of having to stay with our guide I could not help but feel the overwhelming sense of somberness in this place. When we finally came into view of the 9,000 gravestones of the fallen men nothing could prevent me from shedding tears for the fate that resulted in my freedom. We walked among the graves. Cross after cross seemed to stretch before us, all aligned in a perfectly straight line or diagonal. Most crosses or stars of David had the name, place, and date of death of the soldier. The ones that touched me the most however were the uknowns, the crosses that said “Here rests in honored glory A Comrade in Arms known but to God.” To think that the families and loved ones of this fallen soldier would never have the solace of knowing what happened to their son, brother, husband. These unknown men were too destroyed to be recognized. To think about all the many loved ones could never visit this place to mourn their loss. The more we walked and the more we saw made me eternally grateful for the freedom I take for granted. Words cannot express the gratitude and thankfulness I felt at seeing the graves of those who gave their lives for mine. Feeling the gravity of death, paying reverence to those many fallen soldiers, and appreciating the sacrifice they made for the people of America and Europe made me truly proud to be an American.