The Price of Freedom...
Dawn over Juno Beach - Normandy, France
They were just like us...not much different. They worked on farms and in factories. Some of them were school teachers, and accountants. They were dads and husbands...nowhere near superheroes, but what they did was heroic...what they did was selfless and courageous and beyond any kind of sacrifice that most of us can imagine now in this time of unfettered freedom that came on the backs of their enormous sacrifice. My grandfather came home from the war but he didn't talk about it...not ever. What he must have seen. What he must have endured. It's humbling beyond what my mind can reasonably conceive.
When June and I visited Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC the most awe inspiring and emotion triggering thing was the ages engraved on each tombstone.
They were boys, not men...boys. I was that age once, and most likely incapable of such selfless sacrifice.
I'm a man now, but am I? Am I really? If so it's only because those boys buried under those cold stone markers in places like Arlington and Flanders Field, and in countless other nameless, uncelebrated places across Europe and Asia, and Africa and the South Pacific died young so that I could to grow old, as I should...free. Am I a man? Certainly not any more than those boys were. Whatever I'm capable of now it pales to what they did then.
Today marks the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and I find myself moved to near tears if I think about it too much. Again, as I always have, I can reach down beneath my shirt and feel for his dog tag, the one that he wore on June 6th, 1944 and the one he stripped from his neck shortly afterward to never wear again...a symbol of every horror he ever endured. He kept them, if only to remember the men he called friends who were unable to pull them from their own necks but instead had them stripped from their lifeless adolescent bodies and mailed home. He kept them, I don't know, perhaps so that maybe his grandsons could have them to remember that freedom is never free.