I did very little thinking about the sacrifice our military has made to protect our peace and lives. However, now, as I sit down to wrap up my day, I am thinking about how much I have to be thankful for and how thankful I am to have the freedom to have a three-day weekend of good times.
Last April, I visited Normandy with my oldest daughter. My father was a World War II veteran (now is when I remind everyone that I am the product of his second family and that he was 57 when I was born). He fought as a Merchant Marine--the deafness in his right ear, as the result of an untreated ear infection in childhood prevented him from enlisting in the Navy like he wanted to. He did not storm the beaches on D-Day; but he did work transporting supplies to Portsmouth, the port in England that was the major departure point for the Allied Forces.
In Normandy, we visited several of the landing locations; which are now delightful seaside towns--the French version of the Jersey shore. We ate sandwiches and oysters. I watched the surf push and pull--a very ordinary beach on the Atlantic Ocean. I saw no traces of the death and horror that happened on D-Day. The beaches had returned to what they were before the Nazi occupation: a place to go on a warm spring day with a bottle of cider to watch the ocean and breathe deeply.
Of course, there are traces of D Day. Each landing point has a museum dedicated to the Allies that came to drive the Nazis away. The American cemetery--filled with the graves of soldiers who died in those waters--was a life changing place for me. It was a place where stories stopped and yet also a place where stories were made to go on because of the sacrifice of those men and women who started their day knowing it would almost definitely be their last.
But, still, the part of the trip I go back to is that ordinary beach where I let my daughter try a sip of my Normandy cider. That place was filled with seagulls and laughter and lovely, peaceful memories. Ordinary places are where the sacrifice of our military is most evident to me. Without their bravery and selflessness, we wouldn't have days at the beach.
I think sometimes the best we can do to honor those who have sacrificed for our lives, is to live our lives. I know today is our official pause to honor the veterans who have died; but everyday we live and breathe freely is a day we honor those who have paved that path to freedom.