D-Day's lasting memory
D-Day plus-65 years will be marked by ceremonies across the world today — none more physically and spiritually linked to the Allied landings on Normandy’s beaches than the one scheduled at the U.S. military cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, where more than 9,000 white crosses and Stars of David overlook Omaha Beach.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other dignitaries. Obama’s grandfather and great uncle both made Normandy landings, though not on D-Day itself. They followed thousands of American soldiers, who with British, Canadian and Free French troops, began rolling back German forces that had held France throughout World War II.
Americans might be surprised at how grateful Normandy’s French remain, 65 years later. The political differences France and the U.S. have had the past six decades have not diminished their love and affection and memory of what the G.I.s did on D-Day. “When you are 4 or 5 years old, and your parents and your grandparents tell you about this, it sticks with you,” 42-year-old Benoit Noel told The Washington Post. “Everybody in Normandy remembers the landing. We know what the Americans did for us. We haven’t forgotten.”
Memories of war, the specific battles and instances of heroism, fade with the passing of the veterans who lived them. But the cemeteries remain — stone markers on lush green lawns, testifying to the great clash of armies and to the changing of history’s course, which is D-Day’s enduring significance.
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