I have never felt the emotional connection to memorials. I always understood the depth of emotion they contained, and felt capable of feeling it, but never truly felt it. Until we arrived at the American Cemetery on Utah Beach. All morning we had been hearing about the troops who gave their lives, and they were continually referred to as “the boys”. When Peter first called them this, it sounded strange to me because all of the guys on the Andover crew team (my own brother included) whom I have come to know and love so much, are referred to as “the boys”. But the more he talked, the more I realized the connection. These troops were no different than the crew guys. They were not much older, not from any drastically different circumstances.
As we walked along the path beside Utah beach, I couldn’t help but imagine the troops fighting there, and those troops transformed into my friends. Not some nameless face charging up the beach and fighting his way through the crashing surf, but my brothers, my best friends. So when we turned that corner around a few tall hedges and the view opened up to thousands upon thousands of crosses, I found myself choking up and gasping for air. And as I walked along the rows, reading each name and each man’s home town, I couldn’t help but seeing, for a flash, a name I knew engraved into the white stone.
That is when I realized the difference between seeing a monument and reading about it… between knowledge and emotion. Knowing boys who are exactly like “the boys” made this memorial hit much closer to home for me. The moment when I turned the corner and saw the whole landscape, dotted with those little white reminders of each person who gave his life, will remain the most emotionally profound and impactful moment of this trip.
I GIVE UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH