I used to think that I understood what Memorial Day was actually about. Not grilling, or shopping sales, but about remembering those who have fought for our country. We have parades to celebrate them and everything.
Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day”, it was created after the end of the Civil War, as a desire to honor the dead on both sides. You can read more about the history of Memorial Day here.
I thought I understood Memorial Day.
Until I spent Memorial Day with a WWII veteran in France.
My Grandfather was a pilot in WWII, he flew on D-Day. He’s been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, he’s received awards from France for his efforts in WWII, he’s been inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame, I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things (Yes, my grandpa is cooler than your grandpa). He’s also a Lieutenant Colonel (retired). Did I mention he still runs two and a half miles every morning at 93 years old?
So there we were, our first stop was Utah Beach, where there is a WWII museum, that has the same plane that my Grandpa flew in WWII. You can learn more about the museum here.
Myself, Uncle, Aunt, Grandfather and I went to the museum because of the plane pictured above. It’s a B26 bomber, and it’s the same kind of plane that my Grandpa flew in WWII. My Grandpa, and the rest of us, got into the museum for free because of him. He was wearing his B26 pilot hat, and his B26 polo. A museum attendant immediately went up to him and gave him, and us) the grand tour of the museum. Grandpa of course even got to get into the B26, I however, still had to stay outside the velvet rope.
Here’s where things got a little more real:
We drove around Normandy for a while and found the airfield my Grandpa flew missions out of after D-Day. It’s just an empty field now.
And then there was Omaha.
Acres and acres of white crosses dot what was once a battle field. None of the pictures I took really did it justice.Normally, cemeteries don’t bother me at all. But not this place. It was an overwhelmingly eerie, haunting place.
Memorial Day is a great day. We get to spend time with family, eat a meal together. But more importantly, it’s about those who sacrificed everything for us. So in between stuffing your face with a burger or hot-dog today, thank a veteran.