Emma’s Note: Emma Walsh here, managing editor of the Diary.
As longtime readers know, Bill and his family often spend the summer months at their home in France. It is just a few hours’ drive from the Normandy coast.
This weekend is the 77th anniversary of the Normandy Landings. On June 6, 1944, 156,000 American, British, and Canadian soldiers landed on five beaches in the Normandy region. Sadly, thousands of them lost their lives during the battles that followed.
So today, friend and master trader Jeff Clark remembers a visit he made with his family to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. There, they walked among the gravestones of the 9,386 American soldiers who perished.
The American Cemetery in Normandy, France, displays 9,386 gravestones of American soldiers who perished on June 6, 1944 – aka D-Day.
My family visited this cemetery several years ago.
My older son was studying World War II in his junior-high-school history class.
We had planned a vacation to France for the summer. And it seemed that, besides the typical touristy things in Paris, we might get some educational benefit from taking a detour to Normandy.
I had no idea…
Our tour guide had lived in Normandy his entire life. His parents and grandparents were residents of Normandy. He knew the history. He was the perfect person to show us his “neighborhood.”
We walked along Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. All the while, our tour guide explained the events of June 6, 1944. He choked back tears as he described the day Americans invaded the region to free it from Nazi control.
We visited a church in Normandy, too. Its blood-stained pews had been preserved to remind visitors of the sacrifices the American military made.
As my family walked along some backroads, a few of the local elderly residents approached us. Our tour guide explained we were American tourists visiting the D-Day memorials. The residents shook our hands and nodded, saying, “Merci. Merci. Merci.” (Thank you.)
Then we visited the American Cemetery.
It’s on the hillside, overlooking the ocean. It would be an ideal location for a luxury resort or a high-priced, exclusive community. But the French set it aside as a place to honor the fallen American soldiers.
As you stand at the entrance to the cemetery, you see a field of green grass interrupted by 9,386 stark white grave markers. In the distance, the blue waves of the ocean lighten the image.
We were the only foreigners visiting the American Cemetery that day. But there were many people walking by the gravesites, stopping occasionally to say a silent prayer.
Our tour guide explained that these were the locals. “They come by every day,” he said, “just to say thanks.”
My sons walked among the gravestones. They did the math. “Dad,” my younger son said, “this guy was only 18 years old.”
He could have said that several thousand times.
Seventy-seven years ago, more than 9,300 Americans gave up their lives to defend freedom.
The residents of Normandy still shake the hands of American tourists who visit. And they still stand by the gravesites and say, “Merci.”
Editor, Market Minute
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