The following essays are dedicated to the men and women who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces in honor of Veteran’s Day ~ 11/11/11
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement, who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
~ Theodore Roosevelt
Why We Sacrifice
A Decision Point ~ Onward to Normandy
My husband’s voice was muffled by the satellite phone but I could still hear his sense of urgency. “I really want to go to Normandy”, he said.
As an expat child, growing up in Switzerland, he had been to Normandy when he was young so his memories were vague. I think his desire to return was influenced by fatherhood. Raising a history buff that devoured every book and movie associated with World War II had given us a new appreciation for the men and women who lived and served during this turning point in world history. I wish I had a penny for every time we watched The Longest Day or Band of Brothers. My desire to visit Normandy also stemmed from a natural interest in the history of that period. My father’s memorabilia from his time of service in the Army Air Corp always captured my curiosity. I was fascinated by his uniform, his photos, the ornate German beer steins and the ominous German army helmet he brought back from the war. Our history buff child was now a young army lieutenant and our circle of family and friends had come to include many men and women who had served or were serving in the Armed Forces. For us, Normandy had taken on a more personal significance.
We had twelve days to spend in Europe, much of it already planned. Finding extra time to travel to the Brittany coast would be a challenge. My daughter was already going to be a truant, she was missing more school than her spring break allowed. Fortunately, being an expat has its advantages when it comes to school attendance. Global life means being on the move. Something that is more tolerated in international schools. I knew we would regret missing the chance to see Normandy. If there was a way, I was determined to put my research skills to work and find it.
My initial internet searches were not very promising. Most travel forums indicated Normandy was a two or three-day visit, involving the five-hour ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre, then renting a car or taking a bus. Not possible with our schedule. We were taking the Eurostar from London to Paris for a four-day stay. It was possible to rent a car and drive from Paris but that would be expensive and more time-consuming. For some reason I kept imagining us lost in the French countryside, in the dark, trying to find our way back to Paris. Under different circumstances that would be fun, even romantic…but not this time.
My searches finally led me to a recommendation on Rick Steves website for D-Day Battle Tours. The story of the proprietor, Mr. Ellewood von Seibold, and the exuberant reviews of his private tours of the region held promise. After a few email exchanges, we were set to travel by train from Paris, for an all day, private tour of key Normandy sites that included the town of Sainte Mere Eglise, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Pointe Du Hoc and the American Cemetery.
A Time to Ponder ~ Paris to Carentan