On Memorial Day

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When I was a little girl, growing up in Normandy, I knew only two things about the United States of America.

People living there spoke American English.

It was the country that ended World War II.

One of my oldest childhood memories goes back to a day my father and I stood on a beach along the Atlantic coast. Since I had only seen the Manche (the English Channel), I asked him what stood beyond the Atlantic Ocean.

America, he said.

I detected an edge in his voice. I was too young to pinpoint the emotion behind, yet I knew to recognize reverence.

Until I moved from France to the United States my father’s only connection with America was tied to the liberation of his small Normandy village by a coalition of American and Canadian soldiers right after D Day.

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Here in the United States I’ve met a handful of American men who fought in France during WWII but none who landed on the beaches of my childhood.

Recently I spoke to a woman whose father was among the ones who set foot on Omaha Beach in the early hours of the day that would bring peace to Europe. I was so moved by the fact that her father had walked through the villages and small towns that are the fabric of my childhood landscape that I asked her if I could meet him.

I wish you could, she said, but he died last year.

When his daughter told me his age, I calculated that he was twenty yeard old when he arrived in Normandy on D Day.

Only a year older than my son. A year ago, he and I hiked in Yosemite on Memorial Day weekend. I wrote a post about this unforgettable hike, which still echoes my thoughts on this 2015 Memorial Day.

 

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Comments

  1. That whole great generation is almost gone. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of what they did for the world, for all of us.

    • Although it is not Veteran’s Day, this recent conversation was on my mind on Memorial day. My gratitude toward the men, often so young, who died so far from home is eternal. I know that WWII happened a long time ago for younger boys and girls and that less and less people who lived through this period of time are alive, but for me since I grew up in the heart of the D Day bloody battles, it will never cease to remind me of the sacrifices of so many people who died for our freedom and also of the horror of the war. Peace would be so good.

  2. jazzcookie says:

    Lovely, Evelyne. Thank you for this. My dear uncle was badly wounded in France and struggled with his health for many years, but his memories of the people he met there were all wonderful. The photos are lovely, too.

    • Oh I’m very touched by your visit and please, pass my deep gratitude to your uncle. So many men were severely wounded even if they didn’t die. I am also touched to read about the French’s kindness. I took the photos last week at the Botanical Gardens of the University of California Berkeley where one of my kids is a student.

  3. A fine post for this day, Evelyne. I’m glad you shared it. Hugs. 🙂

  4. I really appreciate your view from both sides of the Atlantic, especially since you grew up in Normandy. I’ve only seen that town in movies and I’m sure the depiction is less than perfect. There are so few veterans on WWII left among us. Im glad we are still thinking about them.

    • I will never forget them. You are right, it’s probably because of I grew up in Normandy. And my parents were so grateful toward the allies that there was no way I wouldn’t have known. Knowing your interest for history I’m sure that you would find Normandy very interesting to visit with your family. There is something from all periods of time. But the cost is definitely a tribute to the men who fought for European freedom.

  5. It is sad that we’re losing that generation- the best generation, or so they say, but what an honor to their name you’ve given them here today 🙂

    • Thank you, Katie. I didn’t have to force myself. Tears come to my eyes each time I hear about a man who came from anywhere in the States to my little corner of France, so that people like me could enjoy freedom. Now that I have a son, I cannot imagine how their mothers could see them leave without the promise of return.

  6. Barbara Mora says:

    Your beautiful memorial of what this day is all about brought tears to my eyes . I only wish our present generation had an appreciation for what this country and the men & women who served & sacrificed did for America & Europe . Thank you for the lovely tribute. And Happy Memorial Day!

    • Thank you, Barbara. As time goes by it is harder for younger people to understand the sacrifices of these men and the gratitude of the countries they saved. Our contemporary wars have been much less meaningful, if wars can be meaningful. In my personal case my upbringing has certainly made me grateful beyond words, so this post is small in comparison to the reality. See you.

  7. cardamone5 says:

    Beautiful, Evelyne.

  8. This is a beautiful post. You truly have a unique perspective on the Greatest Generation; thanks so much for sharing it with us. I wish all of us who lived in this country had such an appreciation for these soldiers who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have.

    • Thank you for visiting me again. I feel fortunate for my childhood and youth in the heart of Normandy. It allowed me to better understand what happened back then. See you soon.

  9. I had a good friend who was at D-Day. He has long since passed on, but his memories were powerful. Good post, Evelyne. –Curt

  10. Such memories could only have been powerful and you’ve been fortunate to be his friend. I have also heard many stories from that period of time but they were from the French side and mostly related to life during the occupation. I always wished to meet in person a man who had been there to thank him. But fewer are alive now, although their stories and meaningful actions remain powerful. See you, Curt.

  11. A very poignant post Evelyne. So important that we never forget. And the ties which bind us, carried on through the generations and their very great sacrifice.

    • Thank you, Sherri. I know that Memorial Day is not Veteran’s, but when this woman told me about her father I was reminded of my own son and of our last year hike on Memorial Day. So it seemed adequate for this year. I agree about the abnegation and sacrifice that still speak to many of us. Peace is better, but sometimes a war is unfortunately the only response. They knew it was and didn’t look back. Stunning example. See you, Sherri.

      • Oh yes, and I loved the story of her father (and such a shame you couldn’t meet him),walking through the very same streets of your childhood and how it gave you cause to remember your walk with your son last year. And my recent visit to Jersey and the War Tunnels gave me an even deeper respect for those who lived under occupation throughout Europe and for those who gave them back their freedom. Stunning indeed.

  12. Ah, I remember how moved I was by the journey on which you took me in last year’s post. Just as you’ve took me on a journey in this one.

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