Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chuck Visits the Dead at Normandy

It may sound macabre to want to visit a cemetery, but when I told Chuck the story of how the cemetery came to be, he became duly intrigued and insisted on stopping to visit the dead.  We usually don’t think about what happens to the soldiers who are killed in battle on foreign soil. During World War II, there were more than 2,000 American soliders who lost their lives during D Day.  The protocol is that families have the choice--they can bury their loved ones where they died or have them sent home.  

The American Cemetery at Normandy is 172.5 acres of land, located on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, technically on French soil, but it is considered American land and it’s run by the United States government.  Approximately 9,400 Americans are buried there, and every year millions of visitors from all over the world come to visit to pay their respects.

The first thing you notice are the crosses, each one marking a gravesite.  They are lined symmetrically and they seem to go on forever. Rows and rows of crosses stretch for acres and acres.  It is the sheer  organization of death that hits you--the space and the numbers.  The white crosses against the green of the grass.  Perfectly tended.  Beautiful against the blue sky.  A breeze blows from the ocean. 

Then you notice the other aspects of the cemetery.  A chapel sits squarely in the middle of the grounds.  There is a 22 foot bronze statue in the center of this memorial in the open arc facing the graves, which is called the “Spirit of American Youth Rising From The Waves” appropriate because so many of the dead in this cemetery lost their lives struggling to gain possession of the beaches in Normandy. The names of the 1, 557 Americans who were missing who could not be located or identified from the Normandy campaign are carved on the garden walls behind this memorial. And north of the memorial is an overlook where one can visualize the battle that took place during D Day.

Brigadire General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. is buried in this cemetery.  He is one of three Medal of Honor recipients, who was awarded his medal posthumously for his valor during the Battle at Utah Beach.  He did not die on the beach that day. The oldest soldier who landed on the beach, beset with a heart condition and with arthritis, he acted courageously and survived only to die one month later of a heart attack. His brother is buried next to him.  In all, there are 38 sets of brothers buried in the cemetery.

The American Cemetery at Normandy is one of the world’s best known military cemeteries. As Chuck and I leave, we discover that near the Visitor’s Center, newsmen visiting in 1969 buried a time capsule--to be opened on June 6, 2044. 


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