Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sarah Santos - St. James Cemetery, Brittany, France

Today we went to the WWII American Cemetery and Memorial in Brittany, France. Our assignment was to select a name, learn his rank and date of death, and then explain how we made our selections. At first I was only really thinking about the assignment when I started moving between the headstones. It wasn’t until awhile after when I was at the memorial that I looked back and saw the cemetery as a whole. It was eye-opening to see what 4,410 dead actually looks like and the true meaning of that number. To add to that, there were two walls that listed the names of the 498 soldiers that were missing in action. However, there was a bronze rosette next to one name, which meant his remains were eventually discovered. Being at this cemetery and still knowing that there are several more, really helped for me to understand the destructiveness of war. Although, several of the men in my family have done military service, I could not imagine what it would have been like if they had done so during wartime. Just the thought of losing someone in a war, is devastating and for all of these families it became their realities. Especially for the families whose sons, brothers, and fathers were missing or that were buried without being properly identified. Just in this cemetery, there were 97 unidentified soldiers buried with headstones stating that they were unknown but to God. While at the memorial, I learned that the land consisted of 28 acres and was given to the US government by the French as both gratitude and acknowledgement of the sacrifices of American men in liberating Europe. Most of the soldiers buried in this cemetery had died “in the Breakout of Avranches, the fierce fighting in Saint-Lo and Mortain, and the liberation of Brittany.” Inside the chapel, there are maps illustrating the movement of the Allied forces in pushing back the Nazis. While visiting this cemetery was truly a learning experience, it was also strongly sobering. At the same time though, visiting a place like this one is truly necessary and crucial for all those who have not been able to grasp the destructiveness of war.

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