By EH | ET Student
Troops who attacked the beaches of Normandy on D-Day carried a heavy load. Their physical load was intense; a pack of equipment on the back of a soldier could weigh close to 70, 90 or even a 100 pounds. These soldiers also carried the weight of their task. They had to make it from the water up to the bank, with ammunition and Nazi troops opposing them. They knew there was a good chance they would die within a few minutes of hitting the sand. This burden seems so heavy for boys about the same age as me, or even younger. Some of the men utterly panicked and jumped overboard before they reached the shore.
Our group spent a day touring some of the sites of the D-Day attacks. As I stood on a ledge watching the ocean gently lap the shore, I started to get shivers up and down my spine, imagining stepping off the boat and into the shallow water, carrying 90 pounds of equipment and the knowledge that I was probably about to die by the time I hit the beach. Later on that day, in a museum that simulated flying a plane during an air raid, I felt downright terrified. The whole day I felt the weight of the terror that I imagine the soldiers felt during the war.
At the American cemetery and memorial on Utah Beach, there are rows and rows of white crosses. The crosses show the name of the soldier and his home state, and as I wandered the rows, I looked to see if any of them said Minnesota. It was a beautiful day, and the water sparkled in the distance, not giving any hint that horrific fighting took place on its shores. In a museum near the cemetery there are stories about individual soldiers who now lie under one of the white crosses. Each one has a story of where they came from, their occupation, who they were and who they left behind.
I began to feel completely overwhelmed as I stared at the rows of white crosses, all of them representing someone that not only lost his life, but left behind family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others who mourned his death. I started to feel the weight of the sadness this field of crosses represented. Thousands upon thousands of families bereaved. The weight of this sacrifice is a heavy one.
As the day went on, though, the weight of fear and sacrifice turned into something new: a lightness. I know that these people did what must have frightened them in order to sacrifice for my freedom. I feel profoundly grateful, and buoyant with the knowledge that I am free.