You Are Not Forgotten

WP_000391In early June, I had the privilege of touring northern France with my husband for the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Ken performed with the Holland American Legion Band at Normandy’s historic battle sites while I absorbed the rich history of the region . . . for a future book, perhaps?

It’s impossible to put into words the emotions I felt as we remembered the courageous men who landed on the beaches of Normandy in June of 1944. These brave young soldiers faced enormous obstacles as they fought to liberate Europe from Nazi oppression. Here are the beaches where they came ashore on D-Day, June 6, 1944.WP_000356

And one of the many Nazi guns that fired down on them.photo(5)

We laid wreaths on the graves of local soldiers from Michigan who died in Normandy. The banners read, “You Are Not Forgotten.” I pray that the generations to follow will also remember.WP_000368

As I read the dates on the gravestones, I was struck by how young these brave, fallen men had been. The sight of SO many graves brought tears to my eyes.photo(1)

Ken had the honor of playing “Taps” during a concert in the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.WP_000354

One of the most touching experiences for me was shaking hands with elderly veterans of D-Day, bent with age but still standing tall, their withered chests heavy with medals. “Thank you,” couldn’t begin to convey my gratitude for their courage and sacrifice.WP_000372

WP_000352The band performed a concert one evening in the village of St. Lo, in the square in front of the 13th century l’Eglise Notre Dame. The church was severely damaged during the war, losing one of its twin spires, but it was left unrepaired as a monument to the price of freedom. The spring evening was warm, and people of all ages filled the square to hear the band play. They rose to their feet, cheering and singing along as the band played the French National anthem. They cheered just as hard for the American anthem. Then a hush fell over the crowd as a haunting melody began to play. The tune started very softly, built to a proud crescendo, then ended as softly as it began. I saw tears in many eyes as everyone hummed along. I later learned that it was the Chant des Partisans—the song of the French Resistance, sung during the war each time a resistance fighter died.WP_000353

We spent a day at the D-Day festival in the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, along with thousands of other people and groups of WWII re-enactors. They wore U.S. Army uniforms, camped in vintage tents, and drove around in period Army Jeeps. WWII era planes flew overhead.photo(4)

A life-sized dummy still hangs from the church steeple by a parachute to commemorate paratrooper John Steele who landed in the dark on D-Day and got caught on the steeple.photo(3)

The band played at the “Liberty Banquet” that evening, performing for more than 1300 guests and military personnel from dozens of nations.photo(2)

WP_000386Normandy left me with a deep sense of the high price of war. I pray that one day all warfare on earth will end. Yet whenever tyranny and oppression and injustice arise, I’m profoundly grateful for the courageous men and women who are willing to risk their lives for our freedom. Have you thanked a veteran lately?

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