There isn’t really a way to prepare for the emotional impact.
You can know the history. You can research the day. Still…
until you see those perfectly spaced rows of perfectly white crosses stretching out before you, you can’t really know.
So many. It stops you in your tracks.
The American Cemetary at Normandy, just above Omaha Beach, is hallowed ground.
You feel it instantly, because from the moment you first glimpse those crosses, you hear reverential silence.
Whispered voices. Bowed heads. Silent tears.
It can be overwhelming. You see old men, in wheelchairs, using walkers, limping slowly through the grounds until they find the one they came to honor and remember.
And then you see handkerchiefs come out, and arms of support stroking old backs as loss is remembered and prayers are murmured.
Shannon and I were lucky the summer day we visited. A group of teens from one high school or college clasped hands, bowed heads, and oh-so-softtly sang, with voices pure and harmony sweet, “America, The Beautiful.”
Had we not been standing so close, we never would have heard, but the group became large enough that many visitors drifted over, wondering what they were doing.
Singing a prayer of thanks, acknowledging a sacrifice unimaginable, honoring real courage from those who saved our world.
This place is so powerful that even watching the coverage tonight of the 70th annivesary of its purpose will bring tears.
These men, buried in this place, and their fellow soldiers, began the process that would eventually free my father from his POW camp in Germany. General Patton himself, pearl-handled revolvers in their holster, standing on his jeep to announce their freedom.
Causes seemed more sure, more pure then. This war certainly was. But that doesn’t diminish the valor, nor the pain of so great a loss. The Greatest Generation put the common good of the world above their own lives. Think about that.
“Oh beautiful, for spacious skies…”
If you are lucky the day you visit, you will be met with beautiful blue skies and gentle breezes that will take your whispered prayers of gratitude for all we have and know safely home to be with those who earned it.