COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, FRANCE, October 5, 2013 — Just how far will the government go to inflict needless pain on American citizens to prove a point? At least as far as the beaches of Normandy, where the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach has been closed since early Tuesday morning.
Everyone has heard about the World War II Memorial in Washington and the stories of dedicated members of the “Greatest Generation” who have been assisted by appreciative, thankful, compassionate fellow Americans to aid them in efforts to visit their barricaded monument.
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Fewer people have heard that the cemetery at Omaha Beach has been closed ever since the government shut its doors early on Tuesday morning. The reason is simple, though hardly justified. The cemetery is not in France; it is United States territory. Americans operate the facility and oversee caretaking, maintenance and upkeep. When Americans stroll across the brilliant green lawn covered with simple white crosses and Stars of David, they are actually back in the United States.
So important to the architects of the memorial were the details of that hallowed ground where so many fought and gave their lives, that all the white marble stones face in the direction of America, toward home.
American troops storm Omaha Beach (plus.google.com)
However, though that is the explanation, it is not a valid reason to deny those who stormed the beaches of France in 1944 a final opportunity to re-visit the site of their accomplishment. That is a travesty beyond political partisanship. It is a tragedy that transcends human decency and, what is worse, it goes largely unreported in the news.
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Ironically, the citizens of France, the very people the United States and its allies liberated, are the ones raising the loudest cries of discontent. All too often we criticize the French for being unappreciative of the sacrifices we made nearly 70 years ago to rid the world of Nazi tyranny.
But here is a secret nobody talks about or that is simply overlooked. The people of Normandy live each day as if the liberation of their country were yesterday. Four words are never far from their lips, and citizens of Normandy will proudly utter them at every opportunity; “We have not forgotten.”
Hard fought victory, June 6, 1944 (plus.google.com)
In approximately eight months, the beaches of Normandy will be front and center in newspapers across the country and throughout the world. Satellite telecasts will beam to every nook and cranny of the planet the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the momentous invasion that saved a world standing at the brink of international despotism.
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Yet today, those who fought, thousands of whom lost their lives, cannot be honored by those who were fortunate enough to survive the horrors of the German onslaught because the cemetery is closed.
The year 2014 will be a turning point in history. It will be a landmark date representing for most of the participants in the D-Day invasion perhaps the final opportunity they will physically be able to experience the site of their victory. Many, if not most, are incapable of making the journey now, but those who can are being denied entrance to the very place where they personally altered the course of history.
Normandy is not alone. Ten other cemeteries in France and memorials in other European countries have also been closed, including sites in Mexico, Panama, Tunisia and the Philippines.
Thankfully, the WWII Memorial in Washington, though now blocked by barricades and barbed wire, has managed to ignore the government theatrics and allowed our veterans to experience their monument and pay tribute to their fellow soldiers.
The government of today could learn much from those who fought and died for a very different government in 1944. They are the people who committed the ultimate sacrifice for the very right today’s politicians have to keep them from honoring their achievement.
In its own way, tyranny still lives.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
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