When it comes to WWII, America doesn’t celebrate VE Day. This tidbit might surprise Europeans because we always remind people that we won WWII. We don’t celebrate VE day because the war wasn’t over for us. We declared war on Japan a day after the attack at Pearl Harbor, so on December 8, 1941, the US didn’t declare war on Germany until after they declared war on us on December 11, 1941.
Instead, on the last Monday in May, we celebrate Memorial Day, where we remember and honor those who die while serving the Armed Services. Memorial Day started around the American Civil War, but it was called Decoration Day because people decorated service members’ graves with flowers or flags. Congress officially changed the name after WWII to Memorial Day and made it a 3 day weekend in 1971. It’s now the official kickoff for summer; outdoor pools are open, BBQs are held, and day drinking is a must.
This post is about the most sincere Memorial Day I have experienced that wasn’t on Memorial Day and took place in France. When you think about WWII, the D-Day invasion of Normandy is high on the list, which is why a visit to the Normandy region of France is a must for all Americans to get a true sense of the cost of war. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located in Colleville-sur-Mer; it is the resting place of 9,386 American soldiers who died during the Normandy Invasion. Please note that is not the total number that died during the invasion.
There are 1,557 names on the wall of the missing whose bodies were never recovered. It didn’t end there because around 10,000 service members were sent home after the war. The remaining graves are for those who had no home to return to, or the family couldn’t bear to bury their child for the 2nd time. I wonder if some thought it was best to let them rest with their brothers in arms overlooking the ocean. Those numbers account for Americans; remember, the UK, Canada, and France lost people. If you don’t include German soldiers, around 57,200 people lost their lives just during the Normandy Invasion from June 6 to September 14, 1944.
What caused my eyes to water was realizing I was older than just about everyone buried here, and I was in my early 30s. My life was longer than theirs because they lost their lives for all of us. It was a beautiful summer day in France during my visit; we went to the actual beaches where the battles took place. Families were having a fun day out to the beach, working on their tan, with kids running around laughing and splashing in the ocean water. It was picturesque, bright, cheery, and full of life; it’s what they fought and died for.