Collin and I are history buffs, Collin quite a bit more than me. He can run circles around me when discussing the history of the world. We decided to take a day trip to visit Utah Beach, pay tribute to the fallen men at the Normandy American Cemetery and learn a bit more about that fateful day at the Utah Beach Museum.
The day we chose was glorious. The sun was shining and we were able to ditch outer layers and feel the sun's warmth again.
Walking up to the museum I knew this would be an emotional day. You learn about WWII in school but actually being there, where some of the war took place, brought new meaning to everything.
We walked through the museum, taking pictures of giant airplanes in hangers and appreciating the facts that we either had forgotten or were never privy to.
We read first hand accounts of men going into battle and read about the impact it had on their families when some of those men never came home.
Two sons of a fallen soldier wanted to ensure proper tribute was given and made it their life's plan to commemorate their father with financial contributions to the museum. Although these two sons were unable to grow up with their father, having been so young during WWII, they knew the sacrifice their father made and made sure he was not quickly forgotten.
Having toured the museum we walked along Utah beach, scaling the dunes and looking out at the ocean before us.
We walked back to the car and made our way to the Normandy American Cemetery.
We stopped off in the small museum and sat in on a short film called 'Letters.' This film will live with me forever. It read aloud letters that were sent from wives, girlfriends, parents and friends. The movie then switched to reading aloud their soldier's responses. They were all filled with love, support and worry for their men to come home and the soldier's responses were filled with longing and many with hope.
We stepped outside and began walking towards the center of the cemetery. As I turned the corner and saw over 9,000 crosses spread out before me, I had to take a moment to take it all in.
We both took our time, reading names on crosses and silently giving thanks for their sacrifice.
The cemetery is beautifully designed, you can hear the waves crashing below at Omaha beach.
I was overcome when I read the first cross of an unidentified solider - "known but to God."
After walking around, I spotted Collin sitting on a bench. We sat together for a while before heading off, somber but grateful.
It was an incredibly moving experience and we would encourage anyone traveling in Normandy to take the time to visit the memorial and appreciate the sacrifices that were made.