Recently our youngest son, his wife, and her parents joined us on a family vacation that took us on our first trip to Europe. We had the opportunity to visit England, Scotland, and Ireland, the homeland our family ancestors who migrated to the “New World” from the late 1600’s to around 1720 according to our family records.
Our last stop was in the Normandy area. What a privilege as well as humbling experience to visit the various sites around Normandy. Seeing the remaining scars of the battlefields, grasping the enormous difficulties Allied forces faced in storming the beach, much less securing any position against the German forces left us in awe of the bravery, determination of our troops, and God’s blessing upon them that they were able to secure the freedoms that we enjoy today. After we viewed the various fortified entrenchments and beach areas, we proceeded to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where activity abounded as it was the day before the D-Day anniversary. Several folks were there as reenactors in their appropriate 1940’s uniforms. I saw at least a half-dozen of these reenactors carrying flowers and flags, looking for specific graves. Once they found the grave they were seeking, they would kneel and place the flowers by the headstone in reverence. One could only envision that these young people in their early 20’s were possibly the great-grandchild, or great nephew of the fallen soldier. One group stood out to me as I watched a young lady, surrounded by three gentlemen, lay a wreath at a headstone. As she finished, and stood up, they all took about four steps backward in total silence and just stood there for several minutes, as one young man took her in his arms to comfort her.
It was quiet obvious that this tombstone held more than just a name on a piece of marble for this group. At another stone, I saw a picture of a dashing young soldier in full dress uniform that another family member had obviously place there in care. Then there were several stones that read “Known only to God.” It is sobering to view the 9,387 headstones across the 172 acres overlooking the Omaha Beach and the English Channel on this peaceful and mild June morning. My wife, Kathryn, expressed a thought that I had not considered. While I was remembering all the young Americans that sacrificed their lives in and around this area, while her heart broke for all the Mothers represented by the row upon rows of grave markers, glimpsing the grief and sacrifice they endured here at home. All of this serves as a reminder that Freedom is definitely not free, but purchased with an extreme commitment and price, represented in part by 269 of these brave young souls from North Carolina that are laid to rest in a land far away from home.
Let us commit to each other, as well as to the memory of these individuals, along with the others who died before and after for the cause of Freedom, that we will prevail against any and all who would desire to take away and destroy the blessings of freedom that we enjoy. Let us also work together to solve issues confronting us for a better solution, utilizing the Grange motto “In Essentials, Unity; In Non- essentials, Liberty; In All Things, Charity.”