Singapore American School
Lessons I Learned from American Cemeteries in Europe
After nearly two weeks in Europe, I have learned many life lessons by visiting American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) cemeteries in Northern Europe. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about World War II by reading books, participating in discussions, attending lectures and classes, but I have come to learn lessons that, perhaps, can only be taught by the soldiers who fought and died for freedom.
Lesson 1 – Omaha Beach – The importance of Omaha Beach in American History cannot be overstated. When the cards were down, and believe me, the cards were down, the American soldiers on June 6, 1944 found a way to win the day.
Lesson 2 – Sand from Omaha Beach – I had not realized that the sand from Omaha Beach is used at ABMC cemeteries around the world to rub onto grave markers to create contrast with the white marble headstone. This way, people can see and read the words in photographs.
Lesson 3 – Grave Adoption – Throughout our travels we have met several “grave adopters” who place flowers, potted plants, and letters at their respective graves several times a year. Some of these families have been doing this since 1944 and have passed down the tradition to the second and now third generation in their families. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not paid honor in this way to soldiers buried in my hometown.
Lesson 4 – Winning – I am convinced now, more than ever, that the Allies had to win World War II at all costs. The alternative, even a stalemate or truce, would have shaken the very roots of this world to its core.
Lesson 5 – Freedom – The price of freedom has never been free and will never be free. I look at the American flag, half-mast or full, and understand that I’m but a humble recipient of a most precious gift, freedom.
Applications are currently being accepted for World War II in the Mediterranean. Click here for more information and an application. The application deadline is midnight on Friday, September 4, 2015.