The word "History" needs to be re-branded. I remember in school just tuning out when this word was spoken. No one seemed to be able to make it real for me. Well standing at the shore of Juno beach it has never felt more real. Having a nephew who is 18 also makes this even more real. I just have to for a moment imagine that it is him in a boat making its way to the Juno beach shore for his first introduction to battle.
The Juno beach center did a great job of walking all of us through the story. It took us all the way back to the beginning and how Canada's army was in a sad state of affairs when WW2 approached. Canada was also just coming out of the great depression as the war approached. Many of the young men who fought grew up hungry and with very little and now were being sent off to war.
The day after seeing the beach we went to the Canadian commentary with 2000 Canadian soldiers in it. 340 soldiers died at Juno beach. Each tombstone showed the date of death and so many of them had the same day. You could see trends in the dates. You could see that the fighting continued as the army continued to push to gain ground and make their way to Caen. Many of the stones had their age and a short sentence from their families. Each of us walk through the commentary alone. As we joined back up there were tears in all of our eyes. HISTORY was very real. I cannot even imagine what life would be like for us if these men had not fought and pushed Hitler back. They really did fight for our freedom and we all FELT this to our core. I remember one grave read, "He died that we might live."
For those lucky enough to survive the fight I cannot even imagine what it must of felt like to free a town or country for that matter. We stayed in a home beside the beach that was there during the war and the owner of the b&b showed us a picture of the troops marching through the street. Many of the French in the area were forced to work as slaves for the Germans. Now they were liberated.
Our history is our story and I feel lucky to have been told a part of this story directly from Graham's grandfather a few years ago. This meant more to me than I think he realized. The Juno beach center had many TV's throughout which played videos of various veterans telling their story. It was so unbelievably real as I listened. Then I watched as the kids moved throughout the room from TV to TV mesmerized by the stories. When you hear a man describe how wet, hungry, dirty and tired he was and then receiving a box of rubber boots and being so happy to finally have dry feet but then finding out the box was filled with only left foot boots. You FEEL the story. He said there was nothing to do but laugh.
Thank you to those men brave enough to fight....for me, for our country, for our world. November 11th is our special day to remember and I will be sure that each and every year on this day I make time to do this. It seems the very least I can do.