June 6, 1944

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June 6, 1944

Postby Mark Llew » Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:44 pm

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

30-some years ago, I took my two children to visit France. My son was 16 and my daughter was 14. We crossed the Channel by ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. It was just after July 1st, and the place was covered in Canadian flags. The next morning, we rented a car and drove south through Normandy to Falaise.

It was a beautiful summer day – blue skies, warm weather, birds singing, cows in the endlessly flat fields. Suddenly we saw a sign… “Canadian War Cemetery” near Bretteville-sur-Laize. We decided to go in.

It was as if the groundskeepers had just left two minutes before we got there – the grass was mowed, there were no weeds or trash – the place was pristine. We were the only ones there. Apart from the hundreds of men buried, of course. Each grave was marked with a small upright white stone marker carrying a maple leaf, and the soldier’s name, rank, and dates of birth and death. All the dates of death were within a few days of each other in August 1944. The Battle of the Falaise Gap. The soldiers were all 18 or 19, only a couple of years older than my son, except for a few old guys of 30 or 40.

I wept. I’m weeping as I write this. It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. We found it very hard to leave. My children and I wandered for what seemed like hours, reading the gravestones. Clearly, the families had been allowed to add a personal thought if they wished. So we read things like, “He was a wonderful son”, “We will always miss him”, He loved life”. As I say, I wept.

Every Canadian should have the opportunity to do what we did. We owe it to ourselves. And to our children and grandchildren. But most importantly, to those brave men who gave their lives to be rid of a great evil.

Our deepest thanks to all of them.

.
Mark Llew
 
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