Remembering Normandy on this Veteran's Day
It's 2020. The world has turned upside for humankind. We are suffering the repercussions of a worldwide pandemic that has kept us from so many of the things we have taken for granted: eating out, going to the theatre and movies, idly window shopping and visiting with friends and neighbors. Singing in choirs, attending church, cheering and yelling in football stadiums, gathering with family for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. And traveling.
The entire world has experienced the ravages of the Corona Virus. Millions of people have experienced terrible illness and debilitating lingering effects of having been sick. Thousands upon thousands have died, alone and away from their loved ones. Hospitals are running out of room to care for the sick and dying. Businesses have shuttered and schools have shut down. For many of us all over the world, we have been in and out of "lock down". Travel has been restricted.
It has been hard.
We remember how it used to be.
I love to travel, as many of you do. I have had the good fortune to have visited several countries: Mexico, the British Isles, Tonga, the Tahitian Islands, Canada, Russia, and several European countries. One of my favorite trips was to France.
In both 2017 and 2018, I had the great pleasure of being part of 2 groups that toured France, specifically the Normandy region. Led by the tour company Travel to Remember, we visited many of the significant sites of importance to the battles of WWII. Specifically sites where a young American soldier named Carver McGriff fought, was wounded and captured in 1944. Today, that young soldier is Dr. E. Carver McGriff, retired pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. He accompanied the tours as our guide to his past.
Both trips were incredible, both in terms of the astounding beauty we experienced in France and the moving stories Dr. McGriff shared of his time there as a young man.
France still remembers the sacrifices that were made for their country as blood was shed for their freedom. They maintain monuments, museums and sacred sites that attest to the ultimate sacrifices and bravery of the men and women who fought there.
I am reminded today that yes, we are restricted. No, we cannot gather the way we used to just a few months ago. No, we cannot travel anywhere we want to go. But at least we see the hope of life after the restrictions to combat Covid are lifted.
It has been less than a year and we are "suffering" from fatigue, and impatience demands that we "get back to normal." Imagine how the world felt during the years of WWII, when the restrictions that the residents of Normandy suffered were the result unrelenting terror of Nazi occupation - where soldiers commandeered homes, and family and neighbors often simply disappeared; where families were forced to flee in the middle of the night as columns of military tanks rumbled through their countryside; where complete towns were annihilated by artillery; where war planes crashed into their houses and backyards; where farms that provided food became encampments and fields of blood and death; where what little food and farm animals you had were taken by the enemy occupiers.
The restrictions we are experiencing make life difficult, there is absolutely no argument about that. But on this Veteran's Day, let us remember the sacrifices our military veterans gave to free the world from authoritarian tyrants and bigotry and racism and hate. We must continue to fight for that. And remember that our current restrictions are nothing compared to the restrictions suffered by the people who lived with tyranny in their very backyards, or whose families perished in camps or on the streets of war.
Thank you to every Veteran who faced fear and fought for freedom.
I have published a coffee table book with photos captured during the 2017 Normandy trip with Carver McGriff and the Travel to Remember group. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you will find it here. https://www.blurb.com/b/9004935-remembering-normandy I will donate 10% of the profit from each book to a local Veteran's association.