My husband’s grandpa on his father’s side landed on Omaha Beach during the liberation of Normandy. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time we went there, but we found an odd mix of people using it for recreation, tourists visiting for its historical significance, and dogs barking happily into the wind. In your mind’s eye, the beach is red with the spilled blood of heroism, and for that reason I expected it to be quietly moving.
But in reality, to be honest … it’s just a beach. You do see people going for a private walk or reminiscing in small groups, recalling the memories of parents and grandparents, or the accounts they read in books. But any expectations of solemnity washed away when I heard waves lapping gently onto shore and saw children building sandcastles, flying colorful kites, or playing a game of football as their parents looked on nearby.
Suddenly, I could imagine the thousands of souls of D-Day enjoying the sound of children’s voices and of stories being told, no matter what side they fought for.
Omaha Beach was something of a magical place to me, and that was unexpected. With all that is going wrong in the world, there has to remain a seed of hope, and to find it in the dignity and the laughter of people visiting a place where such bloodshed happened, was very moving.
Pop loved dogs! After a solo exploratory trip to the sea, there was no way our dogs’ first beach experience should be anything but Omaha. Mind you, Pop didn’t die there; in fact he made it all the way to The Ardennes before he was shot in St. Vith, Belgium, and went home where he lived happily until he died of “old age” just a few years ago. Still, we’ve been thinking of him so much lately. It was important to us to pay our respects in some small way. We know this would have made him smile.
My dogs were oblivious, of course. Oh boy, did they have fun! We let them off the leash since there wasn’t another soul around, and they did beautifully! Lillie chased her ball further than she’d ever been able to before thanks to her Chuck It launcher. It is the best toy for a dog who loves to chase a ball and bring it back. If not, you’re in for a whole lot of walking. The launcher saves you from throwing your shoulder out of whack, which makes it fun to play with the ball. For the beach, you’re better off with the rubber balls (the launcher comes with a fuzzy one).
The boys (as we call Nyx and Maxximus), just had fun sniffing, trying sea water, and darting freely across the golden sand with big ‘ole dog-smiles. They seemed a little smug too, if you ask me. Nyx has always been afraid of the camera, but as you can see, he was so happy, he could not have cared less!
We salute you, Pop! Hope your smile was as big as ours enjoying the dogs, and we hope it eased some of the uglier memories of Omaha Beach, wherever you are.