I've been to where the Battle of Normandy began on June 6, 1944. I didn't know how I would feel or what I would think upon seeing the dozens of bomb craters, German bunkers and thousands of graves in the Normandy American Cemetery. I didn't know if I would be indifferent to this devastation that I personally had taken a part of or if I would be interested from a simply historical, objective perspective.
What I ended up feeling was deep melancholy.
As I ambled past rows and rows of white marble crosses in the American Cemetery, a strong sense of patriotism mixed with sadness struck me. Here were my countrymen buried six feet under in order to defeat an evil force and protect people like me who were safe back at Home.
When I sat by the seashore of Omaha Beach, I didn't see a beach. I envisioned the thousands of young men running up the sand and being picked off by German bullets. I felt proud of the fact that so many soldiers were brave enough to sacrifice their lives but also bitter by the fact that they had died at such young ages before really beginning their lives.
I'm very glad I visited this place and saw it firsthand instead of relying on a textbook as my only knowledge. Seeing devastation like this up close, even if it is more than 60 years old, really brings you to scale and changes the way you might've previously thought about it.
This may sound cheesy, but seeing all the graves and where the soldiers fought and died made me more proud than ever to be an American.