Making the Ultimate Sacrifice

With the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday approaching, it is quite fitting that Veteran’s Day is also observed in the same month.  To the thousands of women and men who give and have given so much to their country, I say Thank You.  Especially to my father, my favorite veteran.

Last June, G and I spent a weekend in the Normandy region of France.  Resting on a bluff above the beaches is the Normandy American National Cemetery & Memorial, appropriately the largest American cemetery in Europe.  It cradles the graves of 9,387 American soldiers which include 41 pairs of brothers.  There is also a memorial to 1,557 soldiers who were never found.  Upon entering the cemetery, you are led on a short walk surrounded by trees.  As you round the corner and look to your left, the initial sight of thousands of grave markers stretched out for acres is one of the most sobering feelings I have ever experienced.  Then, it’s hard to compose yourself as you look to your right.  Omaha Beach is serene and the tide quietly laps at the shoreline.  Yet 66 years ago, it was where many gave all.

Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day)

Netherlands flags wave in the wind

Last night (May 4th) was Dodenherdenking (Remembrance of the Dead) and 2 minutes of silence were observed at 8pm in honor of those who have died in war or peacekeeping missions since WWII.  Thousands of people (including the Queen) filled Dam Square for the annual ceremony at the National Monument.  Sadly, last nights ceremonies were interrupted by panic and chaos due to a screaming man while the silence was being observed.  Click here for the full story.  Fortunately, G & I were at the gym and not in the middle of the chaos.  We did take pause at 8pm with the rest of the gym and respectfully observed silence in honor of those who have fallen.

Today (May 5th) is Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) that marks the end of occupation by Nazi Germany.  It is celebrated by the Dutch every year; however, only observed as an official holiday every 5 years.  The Netherlands was liberated by a mostly Canadian troop with some assistance from the British, American, and French forces.  On May 5th, 1945, an agreement was reached with the German troops in a town called Wageningen which is approximately 90km southeast of Amsterdam.

During our Easter trip to Reims, France, we visited the Surrender Museum (officially known as the Musee de la Reddition German Surrender).  A must see museum even if you are not a war buff!  It is not just another WWII museum, it is THE room where WWII ended.  While this day is officially May 7th, 1945, I thought fitting to include in today’s post.  (Not to mention I haven’t posted anything from our Easter trip to France…yet!)

Left wall in War Room

Center Wall in War Room

Center and Right wall of War Room

The War Room of General Eisenhower occupied a small part of a technical college in Reims centre and remains intact with the original furniture in place and the war maps on the walls.  On May 7th, 1945 at 2.41am the Allied Forces ended WWII by obtaining an unconditional surrender of the Third Reich’s armed forces one week after Hitler’s suicide.  It was pretty amazing to stand in a room and imagine all the activity that once took place…without the convenience of mobile phones, computers, or the internet.  If you are ever in Reims, take a break from the champagne tasting and check out the Surrender Museum.

War Maps

Remains of a tail fin from a fighter aircraft

Museum displays

Of course today is also Cinco de Mayo…so we end the day with a margarita at Los Pilones.

Los Pilones on Kerkstraat