The Beaches of Normandy Weekend: Part 2
Trip Start Sep 13, 2012
51Trip End Dec 21, 2013
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There were some elderly men in Veteran caps walking through the rows with their families. Jane told us that sometimes elderly veterans come to find friends they knew from the war. Sometimes it's old women laying flowers at the stones of men they still love.
Walking through the cemetery it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the shear number of gravestones, all white, all the same. I didn't realize until we got there, but all of the stones have names written on them. On each stone is the name, rank, birth place, and death date, of the person buried beneath it. For some reason, until I walked between the countless rows of white stone, I thought that the crosses were just a representation of the dead, blank slate, and that the bodies were all flown home and buried on U.S. soil. I wasn't entirely wrong, though; the cemetery is, legally, U.S. soil; it was like we were going home.
The memorial at one end of the cemetery contains large maps and narratives of the military operations leading up to and through the victory of the Allied forces in Europe and Japan
There are two structures beyond the burial area: a circular chapel and, at the far end, granite statues representing the United States and France. Haley and I went into the little chapel. It has flags hanging on either side of the alter, (something you don't see in any other church): the American flag, Canadian, French, and Military. It is the perfect place for a soldier to pray to his god and country. I noticed that, unlike the Nazi policy of discrimination, the Americans and French celebrated their soldiers' religious differences; they buried their Jewish soldiers beneath Jewish stars.
The cemetery is a very quiet place. Not many people spoke, and if they did, it was very quietly. The area is so extensive that speaking at a normal volume would not disturb anyone else, but it seems to be out respect for the dead that no one speaks; it is quiet to let them rest. The cemetery sits only yards from the beach where these men lost their lives. It seems almost poetic. War and loss are the same throughout time. It doesn't matter the reason for the conflict or the loss of life; the result is the same. In the end, we will always be standing in a field of the dead, overlooking the ocean.