I'm finally getting around to sharing the pictures from our last day in France! We had the opportunity to visit the site of the Invasion of Normandy and it was absolutely incredible. I mean, I really don't have words to describe this place.
Our first stop was Pointe du Hoc. It was a gorgeous sunny day, which made it hard for me to actually imagine what had happened here. There were several old fortifications and the ground was covered with craters (formed when this area was struck with bombs, prior to the invasion), but it still seemed peaceful. I tried to look past the present environment and envision the horrible conditions and bloodshed that had taken place at this location on June 6, 1944.
It was so amazing to be able to see what I had only read about in history classes. I'm not going to lie, I got a little emotional during my visit. I just kept thinking about how brave those men were, climbing up those steep cliffs, not knowing exactly what was up there waiting for them. They were each willing to risk their own lives to help free Europe from Nazi Germany, because they knew it was the right thing to do.
Next, we had a short little stop at Omaha Beach. The water was freezing, but I still had to step into the water!
Our next stop was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. There are 9,387 U.S. soldiers buried here, as well as a wall with the names of the 1,557 men who were missing in action. We took some time to walk around the gravesites and I was surprised by how many crosses just stated:
"HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY
A COMRADE IN ARMS
KNOWN BUT TO GOD"
I started thinking about how horrible it must have been for those families, who never got that final closure. But I love that these fallen soldiers were given such a special, beautiful, peaceful place to be buried.
After looking around the cemetery for a while, we decided to hike down a path to the beach. On our way down I was enjoying the scenery, but when we began to head back up to the cemetery, I started to imagine the soldiers making their way to the top of this hill. They didn't have a nice paved trail. They didn't have dry, comfortable clothes. Instead, these men had to carry heavy weapons and try to avoid getting shot at from above. I don't think it's something you can accurately imagine, but I'm so grateful for the courage of these men. That reminds me of this quote I saw on a plaque at the memorial:
"YOU CAN MANUFACTURE WEAPONS
AND YOU CAN PURCHASE AMMUNITION,
BUT YOU CAN'T BUY VALOR
AND YOU CAN'T PULL HEROES OFF
AN ASSEMBLY LINE."
Such a great quote, right?
We stopped for lunch in the little beach town of Arromanches, went to the D-Day museum (well, Emery went to the museum and I looked around at the little shops), then drove to the Longues-sur-Mer German battery, where we saw some old artillery and fortifications. After that we stopped at another little museum and headed back to Paris for our flight home the next morning. It was a super busy day, but I absolutely loved it. If you ever make it to France, visiting Normandy is a must!