Every year at this time of year I still remember my experiences visiting Pearl Harbor and Normandy. Although both visits were years ago my memories bring me right back to these memorable places every single year. This has been a year of political uncertainty and endless hurtful and sometimes seemingly senseless arguments. My hope is that we all can take a moment to remember those who paid the ultimate cost fighting for our freedoms with their lives. I also hope that people continue to travel and learn about the people and cultures at the places they visit. Maybe, just maybe, this learning will bring us all just a little closer together. God Bless America!
One of the things I love best about traveling is learning about the history of the places we visit. I, like many others, read books and watch films before I travel to get a better understanding of what I’m going to see. It really heightens my travel experience. It gets me excited for the journey and I look at everything I see just a bit differently.
When Memorial Day comes around it’s impossible for me not to reflect on our visits to Pearl Harbor and Normandy.
Our trip years ago to Pearl Harbor happened to be right on Memorial Day. It wasn’t planned that way. We were in Hawaii and we wanted to visit Pearl Harbor during our trip. When we asked the hotel concierge about the hours and how long it would take to get there he warned us that it would be crowded and folks would be lining up early so we should probably go another day.
We considered it for about two seconds and decided we had to go on Memorial Day. Standing in line in Hawaii didn’t seem like that much of an inconvenience when you consider the sacrifice of all those who have served and those who now serve our country.
So at 5:00 am we made the trek to Pearl Harbor. There were about 100 people gathered waiting for the 8 am opening. As we waited, a military car drove up and we saw an elderly man in a Hawaiian shirt and a sash with honors on it get out of the car. Murmurs went quickly through the line. The elderly gentleman was a Pearl Harbor survivor. He then began to walk the line, something he has been doing annually on Memorial Day. He shook hands with everyone, let people take pictures and chatted with the crowd.
I have to admit I had a lump in my throat as I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. As it turned out he was also the leader of the military band we would hear later that morning.
It was by far one of the most patriotic moments I’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing.
When traveling through France a couple of years ago we drove through Normandy. Our first stop was, of course, a patisserie for morning coffee and croissants. After we grabbed our goodies, we walked through the village of Grandcamp-Maisy along the waterfront just to see what there was to see. Clearly, visitors, we were just wandering around very early in the morning. An older French gentleman approached us and asked in broken English if we were lost and needed help. We assured him in even worse French that we were not and that we were fine and happy to be there. He told us that he loved the Americans and would be ever thankful for our help during the war. He wished us well and went on his way.
What an unexpected and remarkable moment. As we continued our exploration of Normandy, we went to the American Cemetery. We both were uncharacteristically quiet reflecting on the many, many lives lost in this now sacred place. We watched the videos at the American Cemetery as we had at Pearl Harbor including real footage and interviews. You couldn’t help but feel the pride and great loss expressed by the men and women who served. Each one told their story and how they truly felt they were fighting for our freedom.
Remember to Remember
It’s these memories that I reflect on and cherish during Memorial Day. I hope that, whether you’re an American or any other another nationality, you take the time on this day to remember those who fought and died for your freedom. Say a prayer or a thank you and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to make this world a better place.
Do you have a special travel memory that made you reflect on your place in the world? Please share it with us below.