On a summer day in 2003, Laura and I visited the American Cemetary and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. On a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, a stirring and beautiful setting honors the remains of over 9,000 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy 67 years ago today.
In perfect symmetry, white marble crosses and Stars of David sit amid the pristine grounds spreading over 172 acres. In a semicircular garden, the names of over 1,500 Americans who lost their lives in the conflict but could not be located or identified are inscribed on columns. The Spirit of American Youth statue stands in the center.
In contrast to the gleaming brightness of the American memorial, the German Cemetery and Memorial, a short drive inland from the Normandy beach, seems much darker and more somber, yet beautiful in its stark setting. The walled site features a narrow archway entrance, said to symbolize that death is lonely and made alone.
Groups of five dark granite Saxon crosses dot the grounds where 21,000 German soldiers rest, two to a grave with small plaques for identification. The centerpiece of the memorial is the large tumulus. In the burial mound, the remains of unknown German soldiers rest in peace.
The Allies’ D-Day landings on the shores of France led to the ultimate victory. At Omaha Beach alone, over 2,300 Americans paved the way with their lives. Thankfully, these memorials serve as a reminder of that high cost. Our hours at these sites will never be forgotten. Nor will their sacrifice.