First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to all military personnel who have served and are currently serving. I truly appreciate your sacrifice to enable us to live in a country with freedoms like no other.
As I previously blogged about before, this past summer I was able to study abroad. The highlight of my entire trip was being able to travel to Normandy on the 71st anniversary of D-Day. With today being Veterans Day, I have thought about the experience and what it meant to me.
The feelings I experienced in Normandy were overwhelming. I stood on Omaha Beach, and it was a beautiful day, quite the opposite of what the actual experience was for the men who stormed the beaches 71 years earlier. It was surreal to be standing among the peaceful waters and to think that on June 6, 1944 the water was red and the beach was covered in traps and bodies. Closing my eyes, I could see it.
The coast of Normandy was huge, this was the biggest seaborne invasion in history, and the costs were high. I was able to travel to Pointe Du Hoc, a difficult capture for the U.S. Army Rangers. All over the landscape still had huge craters in the ground from bombardment to the land. Today, children play within these craters racing up and down. The German bunkers were still in tact, and I went in, and saw just how difficult it was to overcome the German position.
Lastly, we traveled to the American Cemetery. This experience was overwhelming as far as I could see I saw the white grave stones. A huge wall marked with hundreds of stars indicating those that are still missing. The cost of victory, nearly 10,000 American soldiers are buried there. Many do not realize that the Normandy landings were only just the beginning of a battle that took months to win. Looking at as many stones as I could I only saw the date of death, as when the cemetery was established, it was decided to leave out date of birth so none would feel pity for the young that sacrificed their lives.
The hardest part of visiting Normandy was knowing that many who served that day have now passed on. I saw very few D-Day Veterans that day. Most would be in their early 90's if surviving. It's hard to think that many of the Greatest Generation are no longer with us today. The men and women who we all should look up to.
This Veterans Day and EVERYDAY, remember to thank a Veteran past and present. They sacrificed their time and safety for our freedoms--they have literally been to hell and back. So thank you to all those who have served and are currently serving, your sacrifice does not go unnoticed.
Today, I would especially like to thank my late grandfather, as he is honored with his first Veterans Day in heaven. As one of the last waves of soldiers sent over he was not only in battles, but as the Germans were retreating, he liberated the concentration camps they left behind. Him and the men in his company were in the Battle of Remagen, where he crossed the Ludendorff Bridge into Germany.