If you rent a car and drive through the region of Normandy (there is no bus service to speak of), the winding roads will take you past the rolling hills, quaint stone fences enclosing farmland with the occasional horse, and tiny towns with old stone houses. I traveled there last winter. This beautiful place was liberated by the collective soldiers of America, England, France, and Canada. Nearly 10,000 Americans died in the battles fought.
I was amazed at how they remember.
It wasn’t long ago that they were captives of the Nazi’s in their own homes – awaiting liberation. Under the oppressive and murderous heel of the Nazi’s, they hoped for deliverance. Some of their own fighting men had made a tactical retreat to Britain, awaiting an opportunity to come back in force to beat them back.
When the Allies finally came, the Germans were not ready to leave without a fight.They used the towns as cover, and often the liberation of a town required so much bombardment that the brick and stone towns would be nearly destroyed. In one town, a French soldier remembered that the Germans fled prior to their arrival.The Germans had put every man, woman, and child into the town church and burned it down – killing everyone. Such were the horrors of liberation from the evil regime during these first days after “D-Day.” The battle for Normandy was not a one day push across the beaches – it was a multi-day, constant fight of pushing the Germans back, back, back.
Despite this, when the Allied troops were finally able to drive the Germans into retreat and come into a town, the French residents emerged from the rubble, lined the streets, and shouted their praises and thanks to the soldiers who had saved them.
Even still, full-size pictures are mounted in the towns.
When American soldiers visit Normandy, it’s not uncommon for townpeople to recognize them as American and salute them or thank them.
The French love America – they name their streets after Eisenhower, they have statues of the American soldier, they memorialize the places in the towns where the Allies fought back the Nazi forces occupying their country. They recognize that they got their country back because the world – led by America and England – came to their rescue.
The French people gave the American cemetery in Normandy to America, so that the nearly 10,000 men buried there would be buried on American soil. The American flag flies over them. One is greeted in English upon entering. Each grave is adopted by different French families who leave flowers on the grave and send a letter of thanks to their descendants.
In one very small roadside museum dedicated to the 1st Infantry Division, a display of Chaplain Andrews caught my eye. He was famed for being in the front lines with his troops – not armed with a rifle, but fighting alongside them on another level – ministering to their needs. I’ll write a post on him soon.
Thinking of all this makes me think of the liberation Jesus purchased for us. We were enslaved, He rescued us by His own death – entering into our place of oppression to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and to “set the captives free.”
Perhaps you can think of your own parallels or of memories of the men and women who have fought for freedom from evil. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts.
(All the photos here are my own; copyright Creative Commons – attribution to “YieldtoGod.org – Micah.” Thank you.).
Categories: Growing in the Lord
I am struck by the fact that France gave a part of their own land to America, relinquishing rightful ownership.
So many people have received help – and then forgotten. I have to say I am guilty of this myself, taking small offerings from others for granted and simply moving on with “my” life. The pastor of our local church just told a story of a girl in his high school who had been hit by a truck, flung into a tree, and yet was largely unhurt! She went to church for a few weeks, and then… Drifted back into her norm with no apparent transformation.
What does it really look like for me to REMEMBER? To remember the awfulness of life in the grip of (for me) anxiety, and to move forward daily in the newness of freedom? To remember like the French have, giving over even ownership of myself to my savior, flying His flag over the soil of my life’s days, and learning to speak His language?
Great thoughts, I had the honor of visiting an American WWI cemetery in Meuse-Argonne, France (as well as other sites like Verdun). It was incredibly powerful. I actually wrote a blog a couple years ago about it: http://noahstepro.com/911what-does-it-mean-to-remember/
Indeed. There is something about standing on hallowed ground that seems so different – whether it is Normandy, or the Roman Senate, or one’s childhood home.
A quick and silly anecdote about life:
I once saved a little 3 year old boy from a heavy steel pipe falling down at him. I ran, dove, caught him in my arms and rolled away just as the pipe clanged to the ground where he was standing. He had no idea why I had just tackled him, and he jumped to his feet indignantly and hollered as loud as his little voice could, “You idiot!!!”
Sometimes we just have no idea what really has happened in the past if someone doesn’t tell us.
Seems if we don’t take the time to be aware of our situation and understand how we have been served we won’t appreciate the devoted people and the divine providence that have so deeply blessed us. It really is important that we are taught and reminded of these things.
I remember this story, but I recall it somewhat differently… 🙂