It has been three weeks since I posted a blog to my website. I haven’t been lazy. I have just been out of the country. We did a twelve day cruise around the British Isles spending time in England, Ireland, Scotland, and one day in France. I could relate so many things about the beauties of each country and how enjoyable and exciting it was to visit all the many castles, cathedrals, and other truly historical sights. We saw some gorgeous countryside in Ireland and Scotland, and learned so much about their history. Even though London is a modern city with plenty of contemporary architecture all around, it truly is old. It’s nothing for a house to be two hundred plus years old. Everything about these countries made me feel like America was truly just a kid in this old world. I would love to go back to all of them some day, but especially Scotland. It’s the kind of place you’d like to simply get in a car and spend a month driving all around it and see the towns and the picturesque countryside.
It was all wonderful, but the highlight of the trip was the day spent visiting Normandy. We spent a lot of time at the small town above Gold Beach, where the Canadians came ashore on D-Day in ’44. There was a great museum and a quaint little French town to walk around, but most of all, the beaches were not commercialized. Some of the concrete docks that were brought in to unload men and material after the initial landing were still there – beaten and worn with time, but still there. It was low tide, so I could just walk along the beach and let my mind imagine what it must have been like to charge across it under withering machine gun fire with explosions all around. Pointe Du Hoc was all I thought it could be. Bomb craters and blasted bunkers and a frightening one hundred foot cliff that two hundred and twenty-five men attacked and only ninety survived. It was crowded with tourist – like me – but everyone was quite somber and serious – as they should be. And then there was Omaha Beach, where our boys attacked entrenched and heavily armed German forces and were cut down by the hundreds, many never getting off there boats alive. Our guide said the “Bloody Beach” was still red with blood several days after that first day of battle. There were a couple of very impressive memorials at the entrance to the beach, but when I stepped out on the beach I was a little shocked to see so many…using it as just another beach. From right to left, it looked like Daytona Beach rather than the killing ground of American soldiers. It just didn’t seem right for there to be beach umbrellas and people sunning all along the beach that men paid for with their lives. The embankment looking down on the beach, where thousands of German soldiers fired down on our men as they came ashore, no longer had bunkers or pillboxes in them. They were covered with very expensive, multi-million-dollar summer homes. It just didn’t seem right – or at least what I expected.
My sadness and indignation was short-lived. As soon as I thought “This isn’t right” I immediately reminded myself – isn’t this why those men fought and died? People were sunbathing on a beach and living in fancy homes along the shore because thousands of men fought and paid for their freedom to swim and live like they want. I guess the fruits of freedom are just as important as the cost of freedom – as long as we don’t forget that cost and who made it. With the passing of time it gets easy to forget that real men and women paid the ultimate price for what we get to enjoy. So, all you Omaha beach-goers – soak up that sun, splash around in the surf, and kick that beach ball one more time. Just remember – every now and then – to look at at that memorial and say, “Thanks guys! I remember and appreciate what you did on this beach seventy-plus years ago!”