Every American should visit the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, France. It memorializes the 25,000 American soldiers who were killed in Normandy during 1944.
Ours is not the only foreign cemetery on French soil. There are 26 other Allied cemeteries scattered around the country. During the invasion 110,000 Allied soldiers from 27 nations lost their lives.
It is impossible to walk the grounds of the Omaha Beach memorial without shedding tears. Over the rocky coast there is an ocean of white marble crosses and stars of David. Each of these graves contains the remains of someone’s son or daughter – and many of the deceased were only teenagers. Both French and foreign visitors walk the cemetery in respectful silence. And you find yourself grateful that there are no gift shops or salespeople hawking souvenirs.
A quote on the wall of the Welcome Center by General Mark Clark, Chair of the American Battle Monuments Commission, made me especially proud. It reads: “If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: enough soil in which to bury our gallant dead.”
America is the first liberating nation in the history of the world to resist the temptation to stay as an occupier. That makes me proud to be an American.