Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to fight in the U.S. army. Not as a marine, not in the air force, but on the front lines with fellow American men and women. I did not have a death wish, and I was not naive to the brutalities of war. It was something that I always felt was my duty, my job to put my life towards something important like protecting my family and friends.
Over the years this sense of duty has somewhat diminished, except for the instances when I visit war memorials. Every time I see those rows and rows, upon columns and columns of white crosses a lump forms in my throat. I don’t see the headstones, I see soldiers standing in their place, their faces blank. I do not feel that I owe my country, but instead I owe the generations before me that have given their lives in the pursuit of freedom. I owe them to continue what they started, and continue to preserve.
Today we visited the Madingley American Cemetery located in Cambridge, where some 3,000 Americans rest and 5,000 are remembered. We heard the stories of men who went missing, men who were a year younger than I am yet saw more than I ever will.
In one case, two brothers were featured on the wall of the remembered, those whose bodies were never found. Our tour guide brought us to perspective as she reminded us of the telegraph the twins parents would have received; a single paper with the power to change their lives forever. After receiving the telegram, they would have had to wait a year to find out what really happened to their children.
Walking through the rows of pristine white crosses, across the freshly cut and manicured grass, I read the names of all the men, where they had come from, and when they died. California. New Jersey. New York. North Carolina. Michigan. Ohio. 1943. 1944. 1945.
In the beautiful chapel, the words “Into Thy Hands O Lord” stood out in gold letters atop the alter.