Three years ago today I was privileged to be on the beaches of Normandy for the ceremonies commemorating the 66th anniversary of the landing of the American and Allied forces on D-Day. It was humbling to stand among the men who fought to give freedom to others. Men who risked everything to free an entire continent that was under the oppression and persecution of Nazi Germany.
One thing I will never forget at Normandy was seeing how respectful the French were by adopting the headstones of fallen American soldiers. It was a tradition started almost immediately after the D-Day invasion in June 1944 – local families made sure that each soldier’s grave near their village was tended to. That tradition has been handed down through the generations, and is continued to today.
The family brought small bags of sand from Omaha beach and had each boy rub the sand on the headstones they visited in order to view the solder’s names more clearly. Then they placed flowers in front of the headstones and took a picture of the boys, before moving on to honor another fallen hero.
I candidly observed this ritual being repeated throughout the afternoon. Many other grateful French families were also there paying their respects to the men who paid the ultimate price for their freedom.
Since the French haven’t forgotten the price of their freedom, I pray that we as Americans never will either. Yet today, a growing percentage of youth lack basic knowledge about WWII or Hitler’s atrocities. Help us change this by passing along the legacy of the Greatest Generation by spreading the word about the iHistory WW2 video contest for today’s junior high and high school students!
And remember to thank a veteran… they’re often disguised as retired businessmen, volunteers, Wal-Mart greeters, and great-grandparents. For more information, visit the iHistory WW2 website or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org