Trip to France marred by closure of American cemetery at Normandy

10/19/2013 12:00 AM

10/18/2013 3:43 PM

My husband and I recently returned from France. Paris was fun, but touring the beaches of Normandy was the reason for the trip.

Seeing where so many American soldiers lost their lives liberating France and protecting our country puts tears in your eyes and a lump in your throat.

And one experience made us grit our teeth: the sign on the American cemetery that said it was CLOSED. Yes, closed to everyone, including Americans who had traveled thousands of miles to pay their respects.

When a busload of senior citizens pulled up to the gate, they filed off the bus and stood there looking at the sign. A woman put the rose she had intended to place on a grave on the gate. Now I was not only mad. I was embarrassed for our country.

It was one of only two days of cold, windy weather we had during the whole trip. That didn’t stop my husband from walking around trying to find a way into the cemetery. I could tell he was thinking of climbing over a giant gate we found on one side so I pointed out very carefully the five cameras strategically aimed directly at the gate. He’s the lawyer and I didn’t know how I’d get him out of jail if he got arrested.

And it wasn’t only Americans who were outraged. Tansy and Mike Forster, owners of the cottage where we stayed, agreed there should have been a way to keep it open. “I would have volunteered. Everyone around here would have. Why is it EVER locked anyway? The English cemetery is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day!” Tansy said, getting louder with every word. When we got back to Wichita I was happy to see people had stormed the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., so they could see what they went for. Imagine blocking veterans from seeing a monument dedicated to them. Good grief.

Dick and I hope to see the American cemetery someday. We’ll just have to time it when the gates are open and those busy people in Washington, D.C., are getting along swimmingly. Boy, that’s going to be tricky.

Regardless, the trip was memorable and we recommend it whether you knew anyone in WWII or not. We’ve seen movies and read books, but being right there, seeing exactly where the men came ashore, many dying before they reached the beach, is an experience I will never forget.

And as mad as I was at our government, it was good to get home.

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