Today is D-Day. Last May, Nikole and I drove from Paris out to the Normandy beaches. Like many Americans, seeing those beaches during my lifetime was something very important to me. That being said, I was not really prepared for it, nor for the impact it would have.
If you have never been, the Normandy beaches are really rural. If you live in Florida, think of the stretch of Atlantic ocean between St. Augustine Beach and Ormond Beach -- just a string of small towns, nothing fancy at all.
If you drive from north to south, you also note something remarkable: the further south, and closer you get to Omaha Beach, the higher the cliffs. At the end of a really long day, you get to the American cemetery, which basically sits at the top of the highest cliff.
And there you learn what the words courage and sacrifice really mean.
Our soldiers took responsibility for arguably the hardest stretch of land. From the moments their boats approached the shores, they were under attack from incredibly well fortified protections high on the cliffs. In some cases, those cliffs are 100 feet or more in vertical elevation change. They were sitting ducks, but even in the face of pure fear and for many, certain death, they kept fighting for something bigger than them.
We kept saying to ourselves, how in the world did anyone make it and how in the world did those guys actually take that beach.
Something like 2500 young men died that day -- and by young men, I really mean kids -- 18, 19, 20 year old kids. And what they did that day altered the course of human history for the better. And those who came home came back and built the greatest nation in the history of mankind.
Personally, I think every American who runs for office or who works in the political arena should be required to see it. For me, it was very grounding in terms of providing real perspective. The dumb fights that drive way too much of our political discourse are rendered meaningless when you look at those cliffs and visit the cemeteries.
Freedom means we should fight about our differences, but those soldiers were all Americans, something I worry that we often forget today. I know I walked away thinking I needed to more be a part of solutions, and less a part of the problem. I don't think you can go there without leaving feeling the same way