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Normandy, France and Remembering D-Day

Utah Beach
Today marks the 68th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France. On June 6th, 1944, the Allied Forces landed on the northern coast of France, known as Normandy. This began the push towards the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

Many of you may have family who fought and died bravely during this most epic time in our world. Today is a day to remember and honour them.

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting France. I knew I couldn’t go all the way to France without visiting Normandy and particularly the beaches. As a proud Canadian, I felt it my duty to visit Juno Beach and honour the 25,000 Canadians who brought great pride to their country in seizing Juno beach and playing an instrumental part in liberating Europe. I often preach to my children the importance of understanding their history, not only their own ancestral history but the history of our country both here and abroad. After visiting Normandy, it only reassured my feelings, and I only wish that every man, women and child walked the beaches of Normandy.

I also preach to my children the importance of voting, a privilege we take for granted. While I was in Paris, a new Prime Minister was voted into power. It was amazing to watch the celebrations that took place in the streets.The metro filled with youth as they made their way through the city to celebrate the occasion.
My husband and I discussed how we would never see this in our country.  I looked up the voter turnout for this past French election, over 80%, unheard of in Canada. In fact the highest voter turnout in Canadian history occurred in 1958 with 79.4%. The 2011 election rolled in at a miserable 61%.

The French often turn out in high numbers to vote. I feel like the French understand their history. They understand the importance of asserting their voice which they have done often in the past.  We can look at 1789 as a turning point for the French, the climax of the French Revolution when on July 14th the people of Paris stormed the Bastille. The Bastille was a medieval fortress and prison. It represented royal authority and the masses stormed the prison releasing prisoners and beginning a shift in France from a monarchy to a democracy.  July 14th is now a public holiday know as Bastille Day.

Andy on Omaha Beach 
Repeatedly, throughout Normandy, we saw evidence in memorials from the French people for the gratitude of the Allied Forces and their liberation. The French do not forget their history nor do they take it for granted.
And those thousands of youth who piled into the metro station this past  May with my husband I….. where were they going….The Bastille. They  honour their history, their ancestors, they take to the streets and they cast their ballots.

We need to do the same. We need to make the sacrifices our ancestors paid personal, we need to make them matter.When you walk the beaches of our soldiers, when you see it up close and in person you will never again dismiss the freedoms we enjoy.

So I’m sharing with you today some of the pictures we took during our visit to Normandy. It was a moving couple of days, but something I felt important, necessary and honoured to be able to do. I hope to return again someday. I encourage you to visit Normandy and no matter what country you live, a great gesture you can make on behalf of your ancestors.

Andy on Juno Beach

Juno Beach
Juno Beach - individual memorial to fallen soldier

Canadian Cemetery

Unknown Soldier 
Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
Flags at Juno Beach

Do you have a family member who served in the D-Day invasion or WWII?  Feel  free to leave their name in comments below as a tribute to their memory.