A vacation in Paris, France is always an experience in food, wine, museums and relaxing walks in the city parks. There is so much to evoke all of your senses – the sites of famous statues and paintings; the aroma and taste of boulangerie coffee and croissants; the sounds of cars slowly grinding their way around the Arc de triomphe.
But, the true France, the welcoming countryside villages and churches induce a different sensibility. Much slower paced and more smiles at the recognition we are Americans. These are the people who waved our flag, in spite of the occupiers, urging and thanking our soldiers for their freedom. A three-hour drive from Paris, and experience the emotional walk thru Normandy’s Omaha and Utah beaches brings a tear, it humbles, it reminds of the sacrifices of our military 60 years ago.
It is not simply a cemetery, it is not about the thousands of headstones, of crosses and Stars of David, stretching further than you can see… it is about validation. Our grandfathers, our fathers, our uncles and brothers and cousins landing at these beaches resolved our freedom to worship, to be respected, and to participate as a free citizen of this world – that is the sense when walking through the sea of white headstones. They bear the names Smith, Jones, Stein, McDonald, Giovanni, Hernandez, Goldberg – it doesn’t distinguish the faith – it simply distinguishes the man. It simply says we remember you, and we will never forget.
It is our duty as sons and daughters of these soldiers whose very existence was removed from this world, to remember them. To speak their name with pride. To understand the ultimate sacrifice. To recall and share a memory, around the Thanksgiving table. To say a little silent prayer of thanks, because of that soldier, known or unknown, we are free to give thanks.