Yesterday was the seventy-second anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, in which Allied forces, under the supreme command of General Dwight Eisenhower, stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, to begin the process of retaking Western Europe from Nazi rule. Living as I do in Lynchburg, Virginia, I was able to visit the National D-Day Memorial which is located twenty miles away in Bedford, Virginia.
The first thing one sees upon entering the grounds of the Memorial is Old Glory herself, one the main reasons why D-Day happened in the first place.
Past the flag, you reach the first sculpture, of a soldier pulling a wounded comrade from danger. In the background is the memorial arch, flanked on both sides by the flags of all the nations which participated in D-Day.
Below the memorial arch is the memorial re-creation of the actual landing on the beaches.
After the soldiers stormed the beaches under the hellfire of the Nazi guns, they still had to climb the cliffs which stood before them.
The soldiers coming up to the cliffs.
Death and heroism.
It was a solemn visit. I was so touched this year by what I saw and experienced at the Memorial that I actually wrote a few lines, the first time in approximately two years that I had done so.
The heat trails down from Summer’s air;
Hotter still the war clouds that hovered there.
The flags wave in unison for their part,
Recalling the flag round every silenced heart.
A marble arch stands for those devil cliffs
And a marble transport for the skiffs.
And frozen on the concrete sea and beach
Are the soldiers who gave their all,
Turning their lives to sermons to be preached
On duty, valor, and patriotism,
The virtues our grandfathers would teach.
But their heroism is now a schism
To the Zeitgeist who hovers upon our hearts,
Tattering those lessons with his poisoned darts.
Flesh and blood reduced to plaques that line the wall,
Recalling names to skeletons wrapped in rotting palls,
Best fit within the camera’s lens
Rather than in the hearts of younger men.
That spirit was exorcised from earth and air,
Residing still only in a few who care
For hearth and home and land–
Those terrible things for which these men
Fought the Reich and Imperial Japan.
It still lies behind their stare,
Like a wolf within its den;
Waiting for a better time to strike the blockade
That the Zeitgeist has made of lemonade and parade.