Utah Beach

Is there a name for the emotion one feels when one visits somewhere which holds so much meaning? I felt emotions which didn’t seem to have a name.

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As I stood on Utah beach just trying to take in the enormity of what had happened there, all I could think about was a farmer from Alabama who landed there. He was scared as any soldier would be as he got his first taste of war. The bullets were flying around him, and as he landed and dug a foxhole he prayed for his wife, his family, and that God would give him courage to never run away or do anything cowardly before the enemy. That brave man was my grandfather on June 6, 1944.

I personally cannot fully fathom what it must have been like for him and the other thousands upon thousands of soldiers who landed on the D-Day beaches that day. As I looked from the sea to the beach, I was struck by the short distance between the two. How in the world did anyone survive?

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It’s one thing to read about these events in history. It’s entirely another thing to go to where this event took place and to have had someone there who left a firsthand account of what he experienced. I was looking on scenes he had looked on although granted the landscape has changed quite a bit in the 72 years since the landing. I wondered where he was exactly on this beach, where he dug his fox hole, where he ran when someone yelled that his best friend had been hit though thankfully, he discovered his friend was okay. I can only just imagine how traumatic it must have been for him to witness the devastation and the horror of war all around him as he tried to find a path forward.

As I stood there, I yet again thanked God for sparing him and protecting him just as I had when I went to see the Hürtgen Forest back in February which was another bloody battle he took part in. I thank God that He blessed him with the grace to overcome the trauma after the war, and that he lived to have a wonderful, blessed life following the Lord and raising a family. I know he never forgot that day he landed nor all the experiences which followed, how could he?

There is one thing I regret for him. I regret he never saw or heard how thankful the French were and are for what he and his fellow soldiers did. He had a very low opinion of the French because they fired at him, and he felt that they were overall ungrateful for the sacrifices of the Allies to liberate them. During my various stays in France, I have been moved to experience the complete opposite. Any time I have mentioned my grandfather’s story, I have seen the French nearly moved to tears and most have asked if I my grandfather were still alive to be able to thank him themselves. The French are grateful, and they do wish to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to free them from the oppression of the Nazis. This was a plaque at Utah Beach:

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“From the French in memory of the valiant soldiers from the United States who fell for the liberation of France on June 6, 1944”

I have seen firsthand the bond of an American family and a French family who have remained close through the years because a Frenchman risked everything to save an American from being taken by the Germans. I hope that this bond I have seen can be a testament to not just the friendship of two nations, but also the reality of human compassion and resilience in the midst of horrible circumstances.

I’m glad that our family can at least know that the French do honor my grandfather and those like him who risked their lives and futures that this nation might be free. Of course, I’ve heard all sorts of commentary on the economic and political reasons of why the U.S. got involved, but, my friends, don’t ever forget that life is precious and valuable and that the cost of war is insurmountable. There were men, young men, who never made it home, who never fulfilled their dreams, who left an empty place at their family’s table and in their loved ones’ hearts, who breathed their last breath on a foreign land. Looking upon those rows upon rows of crosses is mind boggling because each of those men, many of whom were around my age, had their own personalities, loves, hopes, fears, dreams, and yet, they laid it all down in the ultimate sacrifice and here they rest.

Many were gone before their lives truly began.

Let us honor them.

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Let us never forget.

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French? Why would you study that?

As a graduate student studying French, one often receives some interesting responses.

When I was an undergraduate working on my Bachelor’s in French, I usually would cringe when someone new at a gathering or church event would come up and try to start a conversation with the question:

“So, you’re in college? What’s your major?”

I suppose, the response they were probably expecting was something like nursing or education maybe a science of some sort. I would respond with:

“Oh, I’m a French major.” *smile*

From here, there was usually one of two responses:

“Wow! That is really neat! I’ve never heard of someone doing that before! So, what are your future plans?”

or

“French?! What in the world are you going to do with that? Teach?” As if teaching was the only “doomed” existence for someone with this kind of degree.

I usually responded with some statistics as well as how much I loved the language and how useful it is in the world. Though my living in Texas usually sparks the next question:

“So, why don’t you just study Spanish? That seems like it would be more useful.”

Yes, maybe around here it’s more useful to speak Spanish, but French is spoken on five continents. Not putting down the Spanish majors because I do have several friends who are, but I think French majors should get a little of the spotlight occasionally since Spanish does seem to usually get most of the funding and attention.

Then, I started graduate school…

It seems that if you then have the audacity to then continue these studies of French into graduate school, the questions only intensify.  Studying French in graduate school simply means that I am trying to reinforce my skills and delve even deeper into the language and the culture. It may seem crazy, but I do love it….even though it seems to be slowly killing me. Believe me either my exhaustion from paper writing is going to do me in or the constant guzzling of coffee will. But, people are still curious which is great, however, I often feel a little self-conscience when I don’t know the answer to one question every single one seems to ask.

So, let’s take a look at those same questions again with the viewpoint of grad school.

“So, you’re in college? What’s your major?”

“I’m actually a graduate student working on my M.A. in French.”

The following statements/questions are usually along these lines:

“Really? I didn’t know you could even go to grad school for that!

“What’s an M.A.? And, what do you use it for?”

“Why didn’t you study Spanish?”

“That’s ummm…different. How in the world is that going to be useful?” *raises eyebrows*

Oh, and my personal favorite which was actually indirectly asked through one of my brother’s professors upon learning that I was a graduate student in French:

“So, is your sister in the ‘Occupy’ movement? ‘Cause she’s probably not going to find a job with that kind of major.”

Yeah, let’s just say I was about ready to fire back with–with–with an essay when this was reported to me.

However, crazy the questions, they always end up at the same place with a question along these lines which I was actually even asked today:

“What are your future plans?”

Frankly, my friends, the answer to that question has yet to be determined. God is a great God has lead me thus far and I know He’ll continue to lead me to know how to use the knowledge He has blessed me with. I am addicted to learning, so I’m very tempted to continue my education for a doctorate, but I will wait and see His will.

My point in all this?

Please don’t be too judgmental about what others are studying. Ask questions, but ask them in a way that shows you’re truly interested not that you’re ready to see how flimsy of a response the other will come up with. I know I’ve been guilty of mentally putting down other majors, but then I realize how much it annoys me when people put down what I am passionate about. We all have different gifts and passions. Not everyone needs to go into the most common fields. God has a plan for each of us.

Free Indeed!

Today as I was heading to work, I was listening to the radio when the DJ played the famous speech of Red Skelton’s about the pledge of allegiance and what each word means. I have heard this speech several times, but this particular time it left me close to tears.

God knows I love my country and have been raised to love my country and pray for her and honor her. But, I see the attacks daily on her freedom as the bureaucrats and certain others in our government chip away at our liberties by unlawfully passing legislation and doing countless other things trying to make it a government ruled by dictators rather than a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I was feeling so troubled about this as I listened to Red Skelton talking about freedom and what our pledge means.

Then, it was like God revealed something to me. It was something I already knew but had never really thought about. Do you remember how there is freedom in Christ? Without that freedom in Christ, there is no true freedom. Our Founding Fathers knew this as they formed our government. This verse then came to mind:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36

So, yes, it bothers me to know that our freedoms are being chipped away, but I also know that even if it is the Lord’s will that our nation become a tyranny, we have a freedom in Christ that cannot be taken away no matter what kind of government we are put under.

I will salute those waving flags and think and pray for those fighting to preserve what freedom we have. However, I cannot forget that even as much as I love my country, I love my Lord more than any country and through Him is true freedom.