I am a better person because of some experiences I’ve had along my road of life. Some have been near, others have been far. But I am grateful for all the experiences I’ve had in my life.
I will never forget the feeling I got when I walked into the American Cemetery in Normandy. I think the best way to describe it is that someone threw a very cold bucket of water on me. Seeing thousands of white crosses standing so solemnly in such a hallowed ground was overwhelming. Feelings of gratitude, sadness, hope, fear and patriotism took over me. We went the wrong way so we came upon the cemetery from the bottom of the hill so I think the effect was greater because we went from seeing nothing to the full view of the cemetery. I really think every American should visit this beautiful, peaceful place. It will teach you that no matter what your political views are, if you are happy or unhappy with your lot, America has so many true heroes who are willing to lay down their lives for us. Thank you for all your sacrifices, including the ultimate sacrifice.
When we got home and I was looking at the pictures we took at the cemetery, I saw this picture I took of my two sons. It was then that it hit me that not too far from where this picture was taken there were hundreds of brothers buried side by side, arm in arm like my boys were. Then it hit me that most of the men buried there, weren’t much older than my oldest son. Once again I had those feelings of love, gratitude and patriotism. Thank you once again, this time to all the mothers who buried their sons together in a far away place. Their sacrifice is not forgotten.
My final Normandy experience happened in Omaha Beach. We stayed in a hotel right on the beach. We were able to use the hotel’s bikes and ride almost the whole length of the beach. Because we were there in October, we were all alone. We saw the beautiful sculpture in the middle of the beach, we saw Pointe du Hoc in the distance, we collected sea shells. We had such a fun time. It almost seemed wrong because once upon a time in this very place, there was no joy or happiness. There were thousands of men dying. Then we saw the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. The pink clouds reflected on the water. You didn’t know where the heavens started, where they ended. It comforted me and it reminded me that I was able to enjoy my life the way I do because of the sacrifice of those men. This place truly became a piece of heaven.
I had a similar experience at Arlington National Cemetery. I went there the first as a Senior in High School and even though I was a teenager I felt the solemnity of the moment. The changing of the guard is someone everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime. It is moments like these that remind me the greatness of America and the goodness of its sons. In Normandy there are hundreds of monuments thanking America for the sacrifice of her sons. How can you adequately express those feelings?
All I have to say is that these tributes show the reverence we should feel for these heroes. I was a witness to the meeting that authorized the beginning of the Gulf War. As a teenager I didn’t fully comprehend those actions and know how high the price of democracy is. But I am grateful that are people willing to lay down their lives for democracy.