Rick and I returned a few weeks ago from three weeks in Europe, two in France traveling by boat up the Rhone River, by bus to Paris and then another boat on the Seine. The land through which my grandmother traveled is much like Sonoma County, California where we live – though California lacks the majestic cathedrals that took men centuries to build, castles filled with history, Roman Aqueducts and roads from ancient times.
We both wanted to see Normandy. My father was in the third wave as an Army Captain, serving as a medic. His unit also went into Germany and assisted in liberating a concentration camp. Before the war, Dad dreamed of being a doctor. After the war, he went into law enforcement instead. Though Mom would like to have made a heritage trip to Europe, Dad never wanted to step foot on foreign soil again — nor would he talk about what he had seen at Normandy or the camp in Germany.
Standing on the beach where Americans landed, I understood why. We visited the cemetery where over nine thousand Americans are buried, and examined the displays at the visitors’ center. I imagined my father in the midst of the fighting, tending to the falling. Some memories can never be purged, and he must have carried a bushel full. He volunteered and served to assure America remained free. He voted for Eisenhower and never doubted the rightness of America entering the war against Germany.
Walking among the white crosses and standing on the bluff with the chill wind blowing, I was filled with sorrow as well as gratitude for those who died on French soil — and for those like my father who came home victorious, but wounded in heart and soul. We have freedom now because of their sacrifice.