Perhaps it was sadness about my WWII soldier father’s death, or the fact it was Memorial Day weekend, or simply because I realize more clearly just how much is at stake in the cause for liberty, freedom, and justice. Probably all of these led us to detour from our trek home and follow the signs through the verdant Virginia countryside to the National D-DAY Memorial tucked away in the little town of Bedford.
Although my appreciation of history as a subject is shamefully lacking, I was sobered by the sense of sacrifice, valor, and honor that enveloped the hillside. A forty-four-foot high arch inscribed with the word OVERLORD, the name of the operation that launched D-Day soared into the blue sky.
The thoughtfully laid out memorial is designed to tell the chronological story of that instrumental battle, beginning with the initial planning. Guided tours are available (and recommended) but we chose to quietly wander around the various tableaus and sculptures, allowing the symbolized sacrifice sink into our beings.
The opening scenes from such movies as Saving Private Ryan are frozen in soundless sculptures (the movie actually inspired from this town’s loss of over twenty of its boys that fatal day) of the race to the beachhead.
One of my favorite portrayals was Scaling the Wall. Framing the edge of the beach, it captures not only the urgency of continuing on under fire in order to save your own life, but also the willingness to risk your own life to help another.
I thought about how easy it is to be self-serving, ruthless even, in getting “to the top” in whatever we do. And here, these soldiers had everything to lose—their very lives—yet valued the success of the one next to them as dearly as their own.
The privately funded, non-profit National D-Day Memorial and others like it that strive to preserve unrevised history for the generations to come serve as valuable keepers of the lessons in valor, integrity, and the cost of freedom.
May I treasure that which I so easily enjoy.