The beaches of Normandy. A place I never thought I would walk was in front of me. I was speechless.
As the world remembers the events of D-Day 75 years ago today, I find myself brought back to last May and June when I traveled from England to France and on to Austria with my father one year ago. We viewed so many sights in countries I never thought I'd visit. Never had I been on a trip with so many heavy emotions.
For those of you unaware, today marks the anniversary of the Allied invasion of Western Europe occupied by Hitler's German forces. While the Soviet Union had been clashing with Germany on the Eastern Front for years at this point, the world (especially Joseph Stalin, who had been demanding another front and was not satisfied with the Allied landings in Italy) wondered when the Allies would launch a Western Front.
The answer came on June 6, 1944.
While our trek to Europe in 2018 certainly had fun events, most of the time my father and I remained silent in remembrance of the sacrifices made during World War II. It's been a year since we returned, and I still get choked up when I think about it. For such a remarkable journey, it is something I find myself rarely able to discuss. Even writing about it is difficult.
We met locals who were in France during the campaign. We met professors, historians, and even representatives from towns like Haguenau who wanted to welcome us to their country. The reception forever changed who I was and how I viewed the rest of the world.
But I think it was the cemeteries and the concentration camp we saw that still haunt me whenever it's quiet. At Normandy, I placed a rose on the grave of a soldier known but to God. I have never spoken of it with anyone but my wife. I think of him often.
So I suppose I am writing this to provide a small reminder to anyone reading this post. If you happen to be fortunate enough to know someone who lived through this era or even someone who took part in the events on or surrounding D-Day, talk with them and listen.
You will be forever grateful you did.