We sang O Canada along the beach where Canadian troops landed in France to liberate it from Germany, seventy one years ago.
It gave me chills and made me more than a little emotional to think of the men that suffered and died right on the sand that I was standing on.
We went to the Juno Beach Memorial along the coast of France today. We walked in the front door and realized that today is July 1st, Canada Day! There were flags everywhere, fun things for the kids to do and a lot of people wearing red shirts. After a little introductory video, we entered the main museum area. James was almost teary eyed after we had viewed that and he was quite sensitive to the plight of the soldiers. We wandered around inside for about an hour, which was long enough for our kids, not long enough for Richard.
We went back to the camper for a quick lunch and then returned in time for our bunker tour. The first bunker we went into was used as a headquarters for that section of the beach. It was mostly built by captured French prisoners and they purposely used shoddy building techniques so that the bunker would more easily collapse during heavy fighting. The connecting tunnel between the headquarters and the beach observation post did collapse so we had to come outside to go from one to the other.
The second bunker was an observation post used to watch for enemies and for defending the beach. We saw the old telephone lines, the place where the cots were for the over nighting soldiers and the cook stove used to cook food and heat the underground rooms.
Then we walked down to the water and we finished up our tour with the guide. Someone started singing O Canada. We all joined in and I was so choked up that I could hardly finish the song. What an amazing experience and history lesson for our boys.
We talked of nothing but World War II for days; what countries were involved, weaponry used, how many men died, how battles were fought and won or lost. The boys made Lego machine guns and reinacted battle scenes until we finally had to force a change of conversation.
Both James and Matthew were very sympathetic to the sacrifices that Canadian and other nationalities of soldiers made for peace in the world.
We also made a rainy, wet stop at the Canadian Military Cemetery. It is a beautifully landscaped little spot where over 2,000 Canadian soldiers lay. We ran around in our raincoats, looking at gravestones and again talking about the ages of the fallen soldiers, some as young as 18 or 19 and their roles and jobs in the army and in the war effort. After about ten minutes of wandering around, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was powerful for the boys to actually see all the gravestones and have a visual of how many Canadian soldiers died.
All in all, a great couple of days on the road. It makes me proud to be Canadian and hopefully some of that patriotism is instilled in our boys, as well.