D-Day Beaches

July 14, 2011

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On Tuesday, I made my second trip to the D-Day beaches, this time with Laura and her family. Our first trip was on the 4th of July — and it was a really amazing place to spend Independence Day.

We started on Omaha Beach in the morning and then spent some of the afternoon at the nearby American Military Cemetery where over 10,000 soldiers are buried. The grounds at the cemetery are immaculate and beautiful. There is an excellent visitor center and it will prepare you a little bit for the humbling sight of all those graves.

Part of the memorial at the cemetery includes huge maps, beautifully made of colored tile, showing where the war movement centered in Normandy, and we were surprised to find out our town of Argentan played a part in the action.

Because it was the 4th of July, there also happened to be a choir at the cemetery — wearing red, white & blue, of course — and singing American patriotic songs. What a treat! As you can imagine, it was pretty much impossible to keep the tears at bay.

The cemetery and memorial overlook the water and it’s such a sacred feeling to walk among the graves, feel the ocean breeze and see the shore where all those boys gave their lives.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robin @ our semi organic life July 14, 2011 at 8:47 am

The red/white/blue is so cute! How do you get your kids so coordinated? I’m guessing just laying out outfits for them with little to no wiggle room?!

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2 Design Mom July 14, 2011 at 8:53 am

My kids are way enthusiastic about anything related to holidays. That morning, I told them to find red, white and blue clothes and they went for it!

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3 Kelly July 14, 2011 at 8:57 am

Thank you, these were so lovely and moving. And such great color shots of the kids against the grass and sea!

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4 Kara July 14, 2011 at 9:07 am

Beautiful picture of a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing.

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5 juliagblair July 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

I felt the sacredness of this tragically beautiful beach. The reverence that
you and your children had is palatable. A Transcendental Experience.
I’m grateful!

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6 Andrea@FancyThat! July 14, 2011 at 9:18 am

A beautiful pack of patriotic expats!

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7 Geevz July 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

Absolutely lovely. As I was looking at your lovely family, I was thinking that six kids doesn’t look too bad in your pictures :) Then I remembered how tight it was packing my siblings and parents into a European size minivan on our France vacation when I was a kid. All throughout the trip people couldn’t believe families of 7 existed. Is it the same way now? And I know it is mundane, but what kind of car did you find there? I can imagine 8 person vehicles are difficult to find.

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8 Design Mom July 17, 2011 at 4:34 am

Hi Geevz! We drive around in a VW Transporter. It actually seats 9 adults! We bought from the “industrial” section. : ) I’ll have to do a post about it.

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9 Ana July 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

This is such a beautiful post I hope you’re having a great Bastille day. xx

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10 Shaina July 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

Haha- I love the one of Ralph and June looking at the “June” sign. Precious!
What plug-in do you use to display your pics? I love the look.

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11 Design Mom July 17, 2011 at 4:35 am

Thanks, Shaina! I love that picture too. I use NextGEN Gallery for my slideshows.

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12 Diane @ kitchen-dreams July 14, 2011 at 9:52 am

Oh thank you for this post and these photos! I was just in Paris for a week with my parents and sister. We had planned a trip to Normandy but my parents ended up being quite ill so we didn’t make it. I’m really happy to see these wonderful photos.

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13 Whitney July 14, 2011 at 9:52 am

These are beautiful -thank you for sharing. What an honor to see it!

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14 the emily July 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

I went to those beaches at the end of April with my sisters and brother. It was just as you described–impossible to keep the tears at bay. I love how you said those “boys” gave their lives, because that’s exactly what they were. Heartbreaking. I loved those maps and the timeline of the story on the bottom level of the visitor’s center.

Have you seen Band of Brothers? I think they filmed part of it in Argentan.

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15 sarah July 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

your kids are just so cute. love the outfits and the special day.

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16 Bobbi July 14, 2011 at 10:51 am

I have been to Normandy a few times, and it never fails to move me. The courage and commitment of the men who fought to literally save the world motivates me to never take freedom for granted. My father was a WWII B24 bomber pilot, and that engendered in me a great appreciation for my country and for brave boys. Pearl Harbor Day was my Dad’s 21st birthday. He went downtown (in Denver) and enlisted. When my mother fearfully questioned his decision, he replied, quoting a poem “To Lucasta, Going to the War”, “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.” (Richard Lovelace) My father survived the war. For him, for all the young men who died and all those who fought and survived, I am grateful.

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17 Erin July 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Bobbi, I’m so touched by the story of your father’s enlistment — and such a beautiful poem to quote in that moment! What a proud and special memory for you to treasure :) Thank you for sharing it!

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18 Design Mom July 17, 2011 at 4:36 am

Such a wonderful story, Bobbi! So glad you shared.

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19 CMN July 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

Thank you for sharing the experience, Gabrielle. I love your shared images and words, and the comments they have inspired. As a child, we visited the American WW2 cemetary in the Philippines. It was huge and moving and in so many respects, just… incomprehensible. While my 7-year old self appreciated it… my grown-up self gets it so much more today. It’s very touching to truly realize and remember the sacrifices that have been made for the life we have today. I appreciate it so much more now as an adult. It’s a memory your children will treasure more and more as they grow.

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20 Stacey H July 14, 2011 at 11:26 am

Awesome. I get teary just reading about your experience. You killed me with what you said about those boys giving their lives. I had two great uncles were among them, and now as a mom of four boys, their sacrifice is even more poignant. So grateful…

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21 Janelle July 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I’m tearing up just reading about it – my cousin visited those beaches a few months ago and said that it was a hauntingly spiritual moment for him.

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22 Debi July 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Thank you for posting such lovely photos and sentiments about Normandy. I was privileged to visit there a number of years ago and was humbled by the experience. I also visited the museum / memorial in Caen where I met a gentlemen who was a member of the French Resistance and learned that he had been awarded the French Croix de Guerre, a very high honor. He spent 3 years in Dachau after being caught.

I am also aware of local citizens who have ‘adopted’ graves of our boys there, placing flowers on the graves on a regular basis. One gentlement goes EVERY WEEK to place flowers on a grave, and he has done so for 40 years! He said that the young do not know what this meant, but he remembers well the sight of the allies coming in to town. When asked why he continues to come to the cemetery, he says, “You must understand, They saved us !THEY SAVED US!!!”

The American Battle Monuments Commission has a great site covering all of the monuments and cemeteries around the world. http://www.abmc.gov

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23 Design Mom July 17, 2011 at 4:38 am

I love that the locals have adopted the graves. Such good people!

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24 Joanna July 14, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Awesome beach! Looked so much fun. Thanks for sharing

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25 Stacey July 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures. I am so very thankful for those “boys” who courageously gave their lives for the freedom of others. I cannot even imagine how they must have felt walking onto the shore that horrific day knowing that they would most likely die. What a tremendous sacrifice. Amazing. I can’t think of a better way to spend Independence Day.

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26 lilcg July 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

my parents and I went when I was about 11 and 20 years later it is still one of my most vivid memories. my grandfather had been a part of the invasion, so a lot of our trip was spent with my mom retelling the stories that she had heard growing up.

it is amazing to see your pictures–when we went it was absolutely deserted. the museums and the cemeteries and memorials were empty. it was early summer but it was freezing cold and gray.

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27 mrs boo radley July 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm

LOVE June by June. Awesome.

What a meaningful trip.

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28 My Traveling Troop July 15, 2011 at 11:06 am

So happy to hear that the cemetery for American soldiers is beautiful and clean, and that they get such lovely visitors! What a beautiful family! Love the red, white and blue! :)

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29 Joanne July 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Awe inspiring photos! I especially liked the last one about not being able to buy valor. It is unbelievable the unspeakable horrors those young men faced upon landing on that beach and still they pushed forward as others fell by the dozens around them and the surf ran red. You have a beautiful family as well. Thanks for sharing!

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30 andrea.d July 15, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Wow, the kids look great in their patriotic colours. You all look so….American! (Especially the ball cap!)

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31 Design Mom July 17, 2011 at 4:40 am

Hah! We definitely felt American too. : )

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32 Sarah July 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

This looks like a great place to visit full of history. Definitely putting it on the itinerary when we make it to France.

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33 Design Mom July 17, 2011 at 4:40 am

Yes, very worth a visit!

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34 ellen van manen-de boer July 17, 2011 at 1:55 am

even we non-americans were hugely impressed by the vastness of the whole cemetery and the impact this war had on so many people. we do have an american war cemetery overhere just outside Maastricht and my boys’s school schedules a road trip every year to meet with a veteran at the cemetery so that they are also aware about the impact on history.

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35 Anjanette July 19, 2011 at 9:59 am

Very nice photos! Your children are adorable.

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36 charlotte July 26, 2011 at 8:08 am

Having just returned from a holiday in the south of France I’d encourage you to pay a trip a long a similar theme to Oradour sur Glane near Limoge – pictures honestly don’t do justice to the humbling sights there. They also have a very good visitors centre – we were very impressed with the amount of information provided in English.

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37 Jean February 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I visited the two cemeteries with my son(who is a Major in the U.S. Army) I was very surprised at my reaction to walking into the Omaha Beach cemetery. I started to sob & my son said his reaction is always intense. I have a friend who said the same. I think you are right in describing it as “spiritual.” I LOVED Normandy so much.

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