D-Day sites inspire students

UTAH BEACH, France — The day was sunny and the breeze cool. The beach was quiet and the mood somber. A group of 25 students from BYU arrived at Utah Beach. They were now standing on the same sand that thousands of soldiers fought on during World War II on the infamous D-Day on June 6, 1944. 

Students explore Utah Beach. (Gillian Marcucci)

Not only did the students explore Utah Beach and the museum thereon, but they also visited Omaha Beach.

Linda Gibson, a woman visiting Normandy with her husband from Arlington, Texas, said that her dad fought in Germany during World War II.

“We were here 39 years ago, me and my dad, because he wanted to see Omaha Beach,” she said. He’s been gone a long time but it’s been very emotional for me to think that we were here 39 years ago with dad because he said he just had to see where all the Americans were slaughtered. When he came here he was pretty calm about the whole thing. He was just very contemplative thinking of all the generations lost that never had a life.”

The last stop of the students’ Normandy tour was the Normandy American Cemetery. This cemetery is dedicated to all of the American soldiers who died fighting for the Allied forces on D-day. There are approximately 9,386 graves and 1,557 names engraved on the Walls of the Missing in the garden of the memorial. 

Tommy Bastian, a visitor from Santoquin, Utah, talked about his experience visiting the cemetery and Omaha Beach. 

He said, “It has a unique feeling. It’s kind of powerful just seeing the amount of people who died and going down to the beach…and just imagining like wow, what if I was one of the people on this beach? It’s cool. It definitely puts it in perspective and helps you realize that people have sacrificed.”

Tommy’s mother Isabelle Bastian is originally from France. She said, “To me, the feeling I had was a great sense of appreciation thinking these Americans and British – they came to rescue the French. I mean, how grateful can we be to have these two nations come and deliver us? It’s pretty cool that they all rallied and came to rescue us and give us our liberty back.”

Tommy and Isabelle Bastian feel the same way that the BYU students felt. Visiting these historical sites reminded the students of how blessed they are to live in the United States. They felt humbled and grateful to their ancestors who fought and were willing to put their life on the line for their freedom. They feel more inspired to serve others and their country in whatever way they can.

Some crosses in the cemetery bear the Jewish star of David. This shows that the soldier buried here was a Jewish American. (Gillian Marcucci)

Categories: Europe Travel, Study Abroad Themes

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