Standing on the broad expanse of Omaha Beach at low tide gives one a sense of the unbelievable task that faced so many young Americans on June 6, 1944.
On a peaceful day in April of 2014, one tries to imagine, unsuccessfully, the long run across open sand with the Germans firing from the higher ground.
One can look out into the English Channel and imagine a thousand ships appearing out of the mist and wonder what thoughts the Germans may have had at that moment.
One can stand atop Point Du Hoc and look down to where the Rangers made their incredible climb to overtake the Germans gun positions.
And then one can stand in the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, and see the 12,000 or so white crosses that represent the graves of those brave young American soldiers that died in Normandy, France in 1944 so that the world could live in freedom. (Another 16,000 dead were returned to the US for burial.) The white lines of crosses stretch far into the distance and even appear to be falling into the sea, or perhaps rising from the sea as the troops did in 1944.
One can wander in the British Cemetery in Bayeux and read inscriptions on the markers from loved ones and see their ages - one was only 17. One inscription read “We cherish the memory of our brave son. Duty nobly done. Till we meet again. Mum and Dad.” Another, “The sorrow we felt when you nobly fell is deep in our hearts. Mam and Family”.
The D-Day beaches and the cemeteries are places that are emotionally indescribable. Words or pictures cannot capture the reality that occurred here 70 years ago.
My wife and I were fortunate enough to visit the area this year. At the American Cemetery, our group of about 125 was treated to a rendition of the National Anthem, the playing of Taps, and a moment of silence. As I looked around at the faces of those present, I can assure you there was hardly a dry eye in the crowd.
We all should be grateful on this Memorial Day to those many who gave their lives in Normandy and elsewhere so that so many could live in freedom.
We should be proud that America stood against tyranny 70 years ago and still stands for freedom today.
Henry H. Lowndes Jr.