Rising to the Challenge: Heroic Actions from 20 Year Old Troops 

I strolled throughout Normandy I regularly listened to Eisenhower’s famous speech before D-Day. As the YouTube video plays into my headphones, I imagine what each soldier was thinking. Powerful words pierce into my mind right away with “The eyes of the world are upon you.” Eisenhower goes on to emphasize the importance of others in the war such as the air offensive, home front, and previous operations that have turned the tide of the war. Eisenhower closes with the importance of the mission and wishes the soldier’s luck. As I crossed the English Channel and explored the beaches, the difficulties of the invasion were clear. The Channel is massive, and the beaches contained long runs, rugged cliffs, and an offensive nightmare. 

The disheartening nature of war was evident at our first cemetery stop. Thousands of graves, two bodies per each grave, covered with fallen German soldiers. I read each grave, carefully analyzing the ages and how many of the fallen were younger than me. This quickly changed my perspective on the war and overall feeling about the Germans. What were all these deaths for? Could they really have done anything different? What would I have done just two years ago in that situation? The graves removed the wide lens on war. I was not in a museum. I was not talking about strategy. I was at the graves of boys my age who died following orders. 

The next few days we visited the British Cemetery and the American Cemetery. My feelings of war quickly changed to very patriotic and proud. Several individual stories made it even more memorable such as reading about each medal of the honor recipients. My feelings for these men were much different. Rather than empathy and sorrow I felt pride and inspiration. My feelings visiting these graves puts a whole new twist on my feelings on war. War constantly challenges what is good versus evil, and often young men are the ones caught in the crossfire.  

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