I walked those sands and traversed those poppy-filled cliffs. The concrete structures were overgrown, more like intriguing boxes beckoning for exploration, and not the life-saving barracks they served as. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. I breathed in fresh salted air and walked through fields pocked with grassy craters.
The abundance of markers and plaques engraved with names and paper flowers made me remember the gravity of this place, but I didn't grasp the magnitude. I encountered it with the proper solemn demeanor, and yet there was no way I could have appreciated what happened. It had a fascination, but the meaning eluded me.
I think I'll never be able to completely understand what happened in Normandy, but my respect can continually grow. And tonight, I'll admit it, after watching Saving Private Ryan and recognizing landmarks, seeing the gore and grit in places that were so familiar, it hit closer to home.
I am a pacifist to the core. An idealized world is utterly appealing to me, but don't fret. I'm still a realist, and I acknowledge that war is often necessary. The beaches of Normandy were needed. The sacrifices made there were meaningful. And I will constantly feel pride and appreciation for a country and a people who could make those difficult choices, who could face fear and death for a cause that is bigger than themselves.