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A walk through Normandy, 75 years later

In 2011 I had the opportunity and honor to visit the military cemetery located above Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

This Memorial Day I was finally able to put the experience into words:


Green bushes and red walkways

A smell of roses upon entering

This hallowed ground.

But it was October in northern France.

There were no roses.

Names, of those not found

Carved on walls of granite.

The missing and unburied

must be remembered too.

A bronze statue of youth

As if rising from the flames of war

Stretching upward Into the blue sky

where flyers were.

Soldiers, sailors,

Men and women

in this American ground given by France.

This hallowed space.

Above the beaches, just east,

blood baptized sacred ground.

Once a place of chaotic death,

Now green and peaceful rests.

Crosses, so many in neat rows.

Thousands, marble white against green grass

Grass like golf greens,

But no playing here.

Crosses and Stars of David.

Rows, upon rows, upon rows.

Young and old

All together in order

The only rank, their common martyrdom.

18-year-old soldier Smith

Paratrooper Talhelm, 17, and always young.

Roosevelt, 56, with golden medal of honor letters in marble,

Brothers here – 38 pairs,

and fathers next to sons,

’til Resurrection Day.

Quiet now, no explosions, no rattling guns,

no sounds but distant surf.

No laughter, nothing superficial.

Words seem senseless.

The graves speak

“We came for freedom

Gave the last measure.

What greater love?

Now We rest,

Work all done.”

One cannot absorb the courage in this

powerfully quiet place.

Awful reverence here.

Silence, peace, and calm at last.

Leaving now, what does one say?

Thanks, pal, like Pyle suggested?

Is that enough?

Is that all,

Nothing more?

No, nothing more.

Retreating on those reddened walks

You know, to say more would be dishonorable.

They said it all.

One June Day.

And you come to know

the smell of roses

with none in sight,

Is their farewell gift to you.

Jim Kubalewski


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