They Gave It All

The next stop on our trip after London was a small city called Bayeux in Normandy, France. We were to spend about five days there learning about and exploring the sites associated with the D-Day invasion June 6, 1944. One aspect we covered thoroughly was the loss of life during this operation. We visited three cemeteries: the British cemetery, the German cemetery, and the American cemetery.

The American cemetery had a large impact on me. It was a rude awakening to enter and see thousands of white headstones dedicated to the fallen American soldiers in Normandy. It is one thing to see and study the numbers of the dead Americans. It is an entirely different thing to see that number physically in front of you, represented by Crosses and Stars of David.


While visiting the cemetery, I had the honor of placing a flag on the grave of a former student of The Ohio State University. It was not an honor I took lightly or for granted. This action held a very special place in my heart. I was representing not only my study abroad group, but also my university and ultimately my country. I felt very humbled as I knelt before the Cross engraved with Thomas R. Barry.


The American cemetery represented something else to me that day. While on this trip, my grandfather passed away. He was a World War II veteran who served his country in the navy. He served aboard the escort carrier USS Wake Island (CVE-65) as an Aviation Boatsman, 3rd Class Petty Officer. He traveled to Karachi, India and back and hunted German U-boats in the Atlantic, sinking one in the process. He traveled to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal and participated in the Invasion of the Philippines, where he was wounded by shrapnel. He also participated in the Invasion of Okinawa, where his ship was hit by two Kamikaze aircrafts. He was serving on the USS Wake Island when it became the first carrier to land a jet-propelled plane on November 6, 1945.

I grew up hearing all of the different stories connected to these excursions. It is a large part of my own history and is one of the main reasons I chose this study abroad trip. I was unable to attend his funeral and pay him final respects. There was no closure. Being there that day and honoring the fallen soldiers of the same war he fought in gave me a little bit of that closure I was longing for. Thomas R. Barry, among thousands of others, died in a foreign country. Family members did not have that closure and final goodbye when he/she died and was buried. Walking through the cemetery and paying my respects felt like I was doing just that. I honored the great sacrifice they made when they gave it all.


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