Ceremonies to Honor D-Day Veterans
Today marks the 65th anniversary of D-day. The occasion is being marked with ceremonies at U.S. and British cemeteries in Normandy.
Several years ago, I toured Normandy and visited cemeteries along the coast. I don't know a single person who participated in D-day, yet it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
As I walked along a narrow path leading to the cemetery entrance, an older man was slowly walking toward me. It was obvious he had been crying. He was wiping tears from his eyes with a handkerchief. I couldn't help but tear-up myself at the sight of him.
Upon entering, it was as if I had suddenly been transported to Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, D.C. - white crosses, perfectly aligned for as far as the eye could see. Like most cemeteries, it was serene and calm. That is, until I got to the shoreline. There, the whipping winds and the rough, grey waters of the English Channel were a sharp reminder of where I was and what these men had done.
French media coverage is much more moderate than American coverage - an aeriel view and a live microphone is what was broadcasted - no flash headlines, no break-aways to other images, no sound effects, no side-bar interviews. English speeches were translated and dubbed into French. The day's events were part of a round-table discussion that aired afterwards - à la Charlie Rose.
The French commentators were astonished that the Obama girls were not at the event, as cemetery visits are a routine field trip destination for French children of approximately the same age. The commentators contrasted the absence of the Obama girls with a group of school children from Marseille (on the opposite side of the country), who wrote to President Sarkozy and asked if they could attend the ceremony. In their letters, they explained why it was important to them. As a result, Sarkozy had them as his guests.
The American commentator, a former serviceman who has worked at the cemeteries for years, was equally astonished that Obama did not stop at a single grave site. No other U.S. President in history had missed that opportunity during previous State visits.
I would encourage anyone to visit this region of France and the cemeteries.