Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Day Our Worlds Changed

By: Ana Boyd

Before today, we really had no idea that by 10 am this morning our whole lives would begin to be changed. We all woke up at 7 am and began our journey by 8:20 am. We proceeded to the Hoisting of the Colors at the Normandy American Cemetery. The Veterans each hoisted two flags; 3 Veterans for each pole. The emotions present were raw and real from both the Veterans and the students. After the hoisting of the colors, we all proceeded to a wreath laying ceremony. Something amazing happened before the ceremony. The recorder for the National Anthem was not working, so all of the College of the Ozarks group sang the National Anthem. That was truly an honor for us all, and we were amazed at the blessing that had been handed to us. Then the six Veterans placed flowers on the Spirit of American Youth. People from other groups were joining us all in the emotions, and there was not a dry eye in the area. We then made our way to the Wall of the Missing. As we were about to begin the presentation, a group of French people wanted to thank the Veterans for their service and took pictures with them. For me, and I am sure the rest of the group, that was one humbling experience to witness. It was amazing to see how welcome and appreciated American Veterans are in Europe. We also went to see one of the Veteran's, Mr. Andy Anderson, friends who had passed in the war. He got a few moments alone to speak to his fallen comrade, and then he began to speak about his friend. The choking in his voice as he spoke about their dreams and hopes moved us all to tears. To see the real pain in his eyes put things in a much clearer perspective for people who did not fight. As we went to a few more of the graves, two men approached us. They were French reporters who wanted to get pictures because they are planning on writing an article about our tour and our experience of a lifetime. I should also mention the weather because it is very significant to the Veterans' experience. The day was cold and rainy. One of the Veterans who landed on D-Day said that this was just how the weather was that morning of June 6, 1944. How surreal it was to realize that our feelings were akin to the way our Veterans were feeling. In the afternoon, we were able to see a German observation tower and German gun brigades from the Atlantic Wall. We all grew silent as we realized that this is all real. We could not fake our emotions when we began to realize that we were standing in German entrenchments, the source of danger so many years ago for our World War II Veterans, and the enemy our Veterans had to fight against.

We finally made it to the part in our day when we would visit two of the beaches. The first beach was Gold Beach. The water felt so amazing even though the day was cold and rainy. To look out and see the artificial harbor was another humbling experience for the day of emotions. We then made it to Juno Beach. Both of the beaches were amazing experiences and we, of course, collected sand! We finished our tour today with a stop at the British Cemetery. It was humbling to see the grave of the very first death of D-Day. Their cemetery was much different to see, but it was just as breathtaking as the Normandy American Cemetary. We topped off the day of emotions with a fabulous dinner at our hotel and an after dinner conversation where the Veterans spoke about what they did before the war. We are all beginning to realize exactly how much these men have given up to get us to where we are today and all of their comrades who passed in the war for our freedom.

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