From the Archives: Lest We Forget
At this time last year, My Own True Love and I took a D-Day tour put on by the fabulous National World War II Museum in New Orleans. With the 75th anniversary of D-Day marching toward us, it seemed like a good time to re-run the blog posts I wrote about the trip. Settle in: for the next few weeks it’s going to be D-Day in the Margins.
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On Memorial Day, My Own True Love and I make sure we attend a service in honor of the fallen. This year we were in Normandy on Memorial Day, enjoying a D-Day tour. In some ways, the entire tour was an extended Memorial Day experience, defined by General John Logan, the holiday’s founder, as “cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe.”
My Own True Love and I expected the Sunday before Memorial Day to be a gut-wrenching experience. The schedule included attending the official D-Day memorial service at the American Cemetery near Omaha Beach.* It soon became clear that the official service was too distant to have much impact. Instead our guide led us through the cemetery, telling us stories about fallen soldiers, love, loss, and heroism. The National World War II Museum, which organized the tour, had provided a flower arrangement and a large number of white roses. The members of the tour improvised a small service of our own. One member suggested that we leave the arrangement on the grave of an unknown soldier. Another suggested that the veterans in our group present the arrangement. It was a powerful moment. Tears were shed. (In fact, I am tearing up typing this after the fact.) As a ceremony, it had all the impact that the official celebration did not.(Leading me to suspect that intimacy is an essential ingredient in a Memorial Day service.) Afterwards, we scattered to place individual white roses on graves.**
As I walked back to the bus, I heard the sound of a lone bugle playing “Taps”–the end of the official celebration. I stopped to listen with a lump in my throat and an ache in my chest.
Remember the fallen. Thank the living. Pray for peace.
*Not the first time we’ve visited an official American cemetery abroad. It is always a moving experience. The Visitors’ Center at the cemetery in Normandy was closed due to the ceremony. Rumor has it that the exhibits are excellent. Quite frankly, I don’t think I could have handled any more.
**I would have liked to place mine on the grave of one of the four women buried in the cemetery. (I am pleased to say that one of the male members of the tour asked where they were buried before I could.) Unfortunately, they were all buried in a portion of the cemetery that was roped off to protect the ground due to recent weather conditions. While I am perfectly willing to kick open a door when there is a good reason, this didn’t seem to be one of these times.
Let me start by saying “Do the right thing” which is what we Americans are so keen on. That includes contemplation and the inner search for peace. Recognizing our past, where we come from and what made us who we are, defines our self image. We are individuals at least and Human- beings at most. To wit; how did we get to here to this day?
The word s a c r a f i c e is often the one we first use when thinking about the topic of Memorial Day. My background as an Immigrant has another word. “Opfer” in German. It includes the translation into English of: volunteer, sacrifice (self or involuntary) victim, and martyr. To these belong various prerequisites. Some self delusional, in these days miss-informational, inspirational, psychological, ideological and theological conceptions precipitating confrontational behavior. To act on it humanely is the wise decision, but I digress.
What really were the causes of the demise of people we called our Heroes? History has attempted to ascertain it, with no clear explanation. The consequent terminology of unresolved conflagration and lack of compromise is the result of human weakness and so the word ” War” replaces prudence with resolute (in some instances) disregard for life. .
Enter our beloved family members and friends who we honor today. Honor, because they deserve to be recognized for stepping in and doing their part where others have made the decision for them. We, those left behind confidingly , some unwittingly, supported their efforts allowing them to be a part of history.
I now speak for the lost who were equally set to their demise and who were just as loved and who became the “Enemy.” God knows they were in the millions too. (In my case my Birth father. My stepfather was in the American Army in Germany after the War.) That is all I will say. To be humane is an attribute/ a tribute and so I will end with saying, my hope is that Humanity as it evolves again and again will not forget to where we have come because of them and how we got here because they all did “the right thing”.
thank you for once again tussling with the tough issues. P