“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…” -Winston Churchill.
My husband is a U.S. Air Force Special Operator at RAF Mildenhall. As soon as I found out that he was going to be jumping into Carentan for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, I immediately began to plan our trip to France. We invited my parents over from the states, booked our Airbnb and the EuroTunnel, and we were ready to go!
I must admit, I used to not know a whole lot about D-Day. In fact, before we moved overseas, I had little interest in history at all.
However, there were two things I did know.
The first was that my grandfather was an ambulance pilot during the war; he flew many missions and survived.
The second is that WWII had a major impact in the world’s history. I didn’t appreciate either enough until this week.
It wasn’t until we reached Caen and saw hundreds of old vehicles driving the N13, with men and women dressed in old military fatigues and American and French flags flying off the back of vehicles, that it really set in just how many people were affected by this war. Sure, we know this was a WORLD war, but when we briefly study it in school, it’s hard to get the true scope.
This was a war won by our great nation, alongside our allies, to prevent one of the biggest dictators in history from taking over Europe.
We arrived super early the day of the Air Show to get a good parking spot and place to sit. By 10 a.m., the sky of Carentan was dotted with paratroopers and planes. It was an unbelievable sight. The grounds around us were packed with people of all nationalities. People were dressed in 1940’s costumes from military fatigues to dresses. The last remaining Veterans sat in a designated area taking it all in. A 97-year-old Veteran, Tom Rice, made his debut by doing a tandem jump, attempting to land in the exact spot he jumped into 75 years prior. Amazing!
At this point, the emotions began to set in. You could just feel it, the chill bumps on your arms and your eyes filled with tears as you looked around and could see the bravery, the honor, and the determination of all the fallen and those who are still with us today.
At 13:10 the final air show began and I finally saw my husband’s plane overhead. The pride of being a military spouse and mom started to set in as well. We all give so much to make this world safe. I witnessed our daughter’s eyes fill with excitement as they watched the guys start to jump one by one out of the C-130 and spiral their way down to the earth, landing so graciously in front of the American flag. It was hard not to let my emotions pour out of me.
Throughout the week, hundreds of re-enactments took place, crowds were everywhere, and traffic was at a stand still, but all of it was worth the wait to see the sites. As I approached each site, my mind went back in time, and I thought about what took place at that location and what everyone must have been going through during a time of war. It is unbelievable that something like this could happen.
Seventy-five years ago at Utah Beach, men came off boats and rushed to the shore, knowing they were to face mass casualties. Some 225 men threw ropes up a 90-foot cliff at Pointe-Du-Huc for a surprise attack on the Germans and only 90 survived. The Iron Mike Memorial statue stands for men who died fighting for the greater good. This area is worth a visit regardless of the time of year. It is truly something to just be able to take it all in and pay respect to some of our greatest warriors in history.
We finished up our week with a visit to the American Cemetery where men lie under white crosses and American flags.
Since our trip, I bought a book about WWII. I am now committed to learn more about such a critical time in our history, so that I may continue to keep those around me aware of the great sacrifices so many took to defeat such evil.
Dawn Coleman lives in the UK but is originally from Dayton, Ohio. She went to UNC Charlotte to pursue a lifelong dream of playing collegiate soccer and ended up meeting her husband at a Dave Matthews concert. Fast forward 15 years and she has two amazing daughters, has lived through 8 deployments and countless TDY’s, and survived three moves. Her family is finally semi slowing down and taking full advantage of their time in England by embracing the culture and travel. In her spare time, she works as a volunteer taxi cab driver. shuttling her girls from activity to activity. She loves to cook, read and be outdoors seeking adventure with her family.