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Normandy Visit Article

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The beaches of
Normandy, silent now
By SHEILAH PEPPER The Gazette Staff

When I was in my mid 20s, I had the privilege of visiting the beaches at Normandy. We went to Omaha Beach, and I was overwhelmed.
The cliffs go almost straight up. They would be hard to scale under peaceful conditions. Up top, I went into an old German concrete bunker. The slit across the front could accommodate a large weapon. Pointing that weapon downward would offer a good chance of hitting troops coming up. You would not even need a specific target.
What the U.S. troops did on the 6th of June, 1944, was a display of incredible bravery.
At that time, back in the 1960s, I could see spots on the beach where old bits of machinery and landing crafts were being uncovered by the surf. On the day I visited, there was a mild breeze and a softly murmuring surf. The only sound was the cry of the gulls. It was stunning to stand where so many brave men had lost their lives for us.
Up top, behind and beyond the beaches, is the massive cemetery. The entry is guarded by two huge stone angels whose wings point to the Heavens,
I walked through the graves. There were many crosses and some Stars of David. Christians, Jews and others - all so very young. I saw no grave with an age beyond 35. They came from all over America. Maine and Utah. Texas and New York. Minnesota, and California. Every state of the Union.
So many young people, buried in honor so very far from home. We stood among the graves and cried and gave thanks for their sacrifice.
On June 6th, 1944, 9,000 of the Allied Forces were killed or wounded. But more than 100,000 broke through and began the costly march across Europe and went on to defeat Adolf Hitler.
That journey to the beaches of Normandy, at age 26, gave me a real understanding of the saying "Freedom is not free."

 

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