Over the course of the semester, I find that I am constantly comparing America to Europe and almost wish that America could adopt more cultural and technical aspects of Europe.
I wish that America had a high speed train system similar to Europe, making it easier to travel. I wish it had the beautiful ancient architecture and collections of art with buildings and pieces that are hundreds if not thousands of years old. I wish the dollar had a better currency exchange than the Euro so I don’t have to watch my bank account savings die over the course of the semester.
This thought process is not good, and I didn’t realize this until I visited the beaches of Northern France over ten day break. During World War II, Germany had completely overtaken France and was plotting an invasion of England.
Military infantries from Canada, Great Britain, and the United States decided to attempt the impossible and invade France to liberate Paris from Nazi rule. This daring invasion involved landing on five different beaches along the northern coast of France in an event later named the D-Day landing.
Thousands of Americans died during the invasion and the race to liberate Paris. Following the liberation, a burial ground was constructed on Omaha Beach, one of the locations invaded by American infantries. Thousands of families chose to have their loved ones buried in this cemetery just a few yards from the beaches where there was so much bloodshed.
The cemetery is massive. It’s filled with thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David. Each headstone had the name of the man who died, his infantry number, the date he died and the state he was from. If someone were to line up all the headstones, it would stretch for miles – there were so many.
How could I wish that America was anything other than what it already was with so many buried in that cemetery who died so I could live in it?
It was thanks to their sacrifice that I could watch my friend chase seagulls down the beach instead of wishing him goodbye and sending him to a foreign country to fight. It was because of them that I am able to live and travel freely as I wish in Europe. It’s because of them that I am able to write a column about how great America is.
For the first time in months I felt so proud to be an American. I was proud to see the flag flying high in the wind bearing the stars and stripes. I began to understand the difficulty that each of those young men faced to leave everything they loved to go to a foreign land and not know whether they would come home.
Those men are our brothers. They are the same age as the young men at Franciscan University, and had World War II happened in this day and age, they would be the ones gone and fighting.
To imagine waking up and hearing that one of my friends had died during an invasion so others could receive the same rights as I did is very humbling. I cannot imagine being a parent, a sister, a wife, who chose to allow their loved one to be buried in the land he died and know that I’ll never see them again.
Despite what I see in the news, despite walking past an anti-America march in Vienna, despite being in a place that is much older, that may have transportation figured out and a longer history, America is still great. It’s the home of the free and the brave. It’s my home. And I’m so grateful for those who died to keep it that way.