Greetings from Normandy, France where it’s D-Day.
Our family is here visiting Bill’s sister and her family. When Bill asked what I wanted to see in Normandy, I immediately responded, “The Beaches.” As the grand-daughter and step-grand-daughter of two admirals in the Navy who fought against Japan in WWII, I wanted to see where those thousands of brave soldiers landed and how they made history.
In the preceding weeks I showed our young daughter pictures, maps and diagrams of why WWII started and what the Normandy invasion was all about. We went to the First Division Museum in Cantigny, Illinois and I told her, “We’ll have lots of fun in France, but I want you to take 10 minutes out of your happy life and think about what those soldiers did in the name of freedom.”
We knew that we’d be going to the cemetery as well so we bought small American flags for each member of the two families. When we got there I offered one to everyone in the group suggesting that if they wanted they could find a tombstone against which they could put their flags. I gave no directives, just a suggestion that we think about who we would want to honor with our flags.We commented as we walked at the diversity of the names on those tombstones.
I chose the unknown soldier above. Another chose a nurse, while others chose soldiers with names that matched theirs or ones that had no particular significance but just felt right.
In the guest book I wrote, “With admiration and gratitude.” Others wrote simply, “Humbling.” It seems like so long ago and yet when you’re here, it’s hallowed ground. It was a glorious day without a cloud in the sky. We stood in the bunkers and thought about all of the bravery, leadership and vision that it took to turn the tides of that sad war.
So here’s my plan: I’m starting to knit a superwash wool neck gaitor for a soldier fighting in Afghanistan which I will finish by the end of the summer to get it there in time for winter. I’m also going to make a quilt for Quilts of Valor. I hope you too will do something to honor those who serve our country.
On this auspicious day I’ll be thinking about the inspiring words I read on the entry to the Omaha Beach Memorial:
‘You can manufacture weapons and you can purchase ammunition but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.” – Sgt. John B. Ellery of the US 1st Infantry Division