Payson resident Bing Brown and his wife, Carol, recently had the moving experience of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, northwest of Bayeux, France.
Set on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, it contains the graves of 9,387 of our U.S. servicemen and women, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing Normandy Campaign.
"Even though I had read about these World War II battles, it was an historic and emotionally powerful experience for me," said Brown.
Americans and many foreign citizens travel there, as if on a pilgrimage. There are 10 grave sections stretching as far as the eye can see, and beneath each precisely aligned white marble headstone, is someone who gave their life for freedom, he said.
"We joined people of all ages and nationalities walking silently among the white crosses and Stars of David, as if on sacred ground. There are engraved tablets honoring the missing in action and a new visitor center which has photos and videos that seem to reveal the personal lives of those lying beneath the grave markers. I felt a deep appreciation for their sacrifices," added Brown.
The first American cemetery on European soil in World War II, it covers 172.5 acres, features an impressive memorial with a 22-foot statue facing the headstones, the Garden of the Missing, a reflecting pool and a chapel.
An orientation table overlooking the beach depicts the landings in Normandy and one can see marked trails to the beach. This cemetery and facilities are operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Staff at the cemetery can assist in helping visitors find the exact headstone locations of relatives or friends. For more information, go to www.abmc.gov.