Reflecting on the Remembrance Walk

 

In Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, I came across a small monument to an American paratrooper who fought on D-Day on an old stone water pump . It reads:

“An American paratrooper hid in the recess behind this pump. Broad-shouldered but lean, he was clearly older than his comrades, his face lined with wrinkles, his eyes pale and expressionless, his legs bent like a horseman’s. He held his rifle in the crook of his elbow, like a hunter. Lying in wait behind the pump, he fired at the panic-stricken German soldiers. He is said to have killed ten of them [from] this position, two of which at least 60 yards away on the road.”

The history of D-Day will not fade from the Normandy Coast. The monuments, cemeteries, and old ruins of the Atlantic Wall line it. Stories such as that of the American Paratrooper can be found throughout towns like Sainte-Marie—du-Mont. Old fortifications dot the local farmland. It all reminds us of the cost and sacrifices that were made to protect our freedoms. The costs that those in the Armed Forces still bear today.

If the invasion of D-Day had been unsuccessful, history would have been very different.

The walk reminded me of the great endeavors that members of the Allied Forces faced as they moved across Europe.

It reminds me that we cannot take for granted our freedoms when men and women in uniform must bear such heavy burdens to ensure them.

As long as we still have men and women who wear that uniform, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are there for them in their times of need.

 

Landing in Normandy, and Day 1 of the Remembrance Walk

Sailing across the English Channel to France, it’s easy to reflect on what is was like for the the soldiers and marines who crossed it so many years ago.

As the ferry approached Normandy, I looked out on the coast and imagined that these beaches were once filled with war.

Today I visited Sword, Juno, and Gold. The beaches have numerous monuments and museums near them, making it difficult for visitors to forget their meaning, and helping to illuminate the crucial role that they played for freedom in the world.

Nearly 74 years after D-Day, those same beaches are occupied by mothers and fathers watching their children play, and school groups out having field trips (unrelated to the historical significance of the sites). It is a powerful sight. This is what the sacrifice of those who fought for the invasion won.

All photos by Hayden Blumenfeld

About the walk

As a leader within the Army, one of your greatest responsibilities is the welfare and safety of America’s sons and daughters entrusted to your command. Transitioning into service in the Army Reserve and becoming a part of the veteran community, and learning about the challenges that face it, has confirmed for me that responsibility cannot end with the end of active duty.

When I decided to go to Europe to visit old friends and family, I knew that I wanted to stop at the Normandy D-Day Beaches. The sacrifice that the Allies made in Normandy nearly 74 years ago ensured the freedom of our Nation and is one that should be honored and never forgotten. I also wanted to use the occasion of my visit to try to bring support to the veterans of that war, and to all veterans, for some of the most important needs that arise as a consequence of their service.

That is why I am seeking donations for the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that helps support veterans and their families during medical emergencies.

The walk is to remember those who have served. But memory alone is not enough for me unless it inspires and guides how I act to support and honor that service. I hope you will join me in supporting this very important cause