Omaha, Utah, Sainte-Mère-Église


(view from one of the myriad of German bunkers that covered the Normandy coastline /
Julie Cook / 2018)

Several years ago, one Sunday afternoon I found myself flipping through the television
channels in hopes of finding something of interest.
I stopped on what was obviously a dated war movie.
Yet having never seen the movie, I knew immediately what it was…
It was the 1962 film The Longest Day.
A big screen depiction of the lead up to and the event of
the Invasion of Normandy…D-Day.

The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Richard Burton along with a host of
other big name stars of the day.

Despite not particularly wanting to watch a war film on this particular sunny Sunday afternoon, I
hunkered in, none the less, ready to endure a long afternoon watching a long film about
about a truly significant long day.

My purpose here is not to retell the historical events of that infamous day now 74 years ago.
but rather to offer a glimpse into what was and what is.

Our day for the D-Day tour couldn’t have been much worse.

As I noted in a post from the other day…there was rain, lots of rain…blowing wind and
bitter wet cold.

And yet the peaceful ebbing ocean that greeted us this day,
was anything but peaceful 74 years ago


(a parasilor enjoys the surf that was once red from the blood lost by those
soilders who never got to shore)

Rain blew sideways, winds gusted 35 to 40 MPH, umbrellas turned upward and a Patagonia
rain jacket that hails as an H2No…proved to be no match as I might as well
have been wearing a paper bag.

But the weather didn’t seem to matter on this particular September day as it seemed
almost fitting.
I knew that the weather on this northwestern coast of France, a coast right off the
often chaotic English Channel is famous for its squalls and unpredictability.

A predicament that proved crucial 74 years ago as the Allied forces needed a window to open.

During the course of our tour, I learned that the movie The Longest Day,
along with other similar movies such as Saving Private Ryan, are actually more movie
than truth.

John Wayne’s character was not the pivotal commanding officer that decisive day but because
John Wayne demanded the most airtime, his character came across as such.
The true leader of the offensive that day was a mere blip in the movie.

And the real tale of the Ryan brothers was not what Tom Hanks offered us as viewers…
And the currently hanging mock paratrooper who perpetually dangles from the bell tower
of Sainte-Mère-Église did not actually fall on that side of the tower at all.
Today’s manikin hangs from its current wall because it simply offers a better view
for visitors arriving into town.

John Steele, the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got hung up on the church tower, in the tiny
village of Sainte-Mère-Église survived his predicament but unfortunately went deaf
that fateful night—
It was the night that he, along with hundreds of parachuters jumped on a moonless night
out of hundreds of planes sent behind enemy lines just prior to the following day’s
infamous landing.

It just so happened that a fire had broken out in town and the church bells were ringing…
endlessly ringing alerting the villagers and occupying Germans that there was a fire and
that all available hands were needed to assist in putting out the fire.
Steele, having been shot in the foot, had to “play” dead so the Germans would not continue
shooting at him.
He hung for hours beside those ringing bells.

Other soldiers fell into the trees, getting tangled up in the limbs…many broke bones
and suffered traumatic punture wounds…
those lucky enough not to be shot while falling from the sky, hunkered in to fight.

Many who were shot as they helplessly floated in the night sky were killed long before
even hitting the ground.

One soldier that fell into this particular tree worked frantically to cut himself loose
from his shute, cutting off his thumb in the process.
Once he fell free to the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to
get to a secure location in order to engage the enemy

Bullet holes remain in the rod iron fencing around a home once occupied by the
German commanding officer of the occupying army.
The scars of a small village which are the remaining physical reminders of
a battle fought so long ago.

From Utah Beach, we climbed down, in and around the now chared bunkers.
Soldiers who managed to survive the intial assualt after storming the beachhead
and then scaled the rocky cliffs, tossed grenades into the bunkers or used flamethrowers
to render the giant guns, used to fire at the Allied Naval ships just off the coast,
inoperable…


(one of the large guns remains in its bunker/ Julie Cook / 2018)


(the stone base where one of the “big” guns was once postioned)


(the hedgehog, that giant steel x shapped barrier, is origianl)

These particular beachheads were chosen in part due to the fact that the sand is
extremely dense and compactable.
Not a soft fluffy sort of sand but rather a hard packed sand, hard enough to allow
heavy equipment to be brought ashore.

Beachgoers today continue finding remnants of that fateful day.

What appears to be a grassy covered dip in the landscape is actually a bomb crater…
the shoreline is covered with such craters…

Sheep have been brought in to assist with ground maintenance as mowers cannot traverse
the pockmarked landscape

Bunkers and beaches have been transformed and are now somber memorials…

Eventually, we moved inward, driving a few miles from the beaches,
making our way to a tiny village and its cafe Cafe J. Phillippe….a cafe
that once greeted war-weary soldiers just as it greeted us this cold wet afternoon.

Mike holds a photograph of Allied troops making their way to this same village.
Stopping just as we did for a needed bite to eat…
the cafe remains just as it did 74 years ago–preserved and frozen in time…

Following our late lunch, we made our way to the final leg of our day which seemed most
fitting as it was indeed the final leg for upwards of 9400 men and women.

Yes, there are actually four servicewomen buried here in the cemetery.

The trees that line the cemetery are all capped off at the top…cut off as a purposeful
and visual reminder of all the fallen whose lives were cut short.

As visitors to the cemetery, we noticed that the names on all of the markers appeared
to be turned around as if backwards— facing away from arriving visitors.
However, we were told that there was a purpose here as well… all 9,387 markers face west…
as in they face home…a homeland that these brave men and women would never see again.

Seeing a sea of impeccably white and neatly aligned stars and crosses standing in silent
attention, each turned so as to face the United States which was nearly 5000 miles away
was almost more than my heart could bear.

Oddly the number of the buried in the cemetery continues to fluctuate.

Modern technology now allows for DNA testing on remains that are still being discovered.
As well as for those bodies that, for all these years, have gone unnamed and unknown.
The families of those Americans now being identified are afforded the option to either bring
home their loved one or to allow them to remain in France…buried in the American Cemetery.

The United States has vowed that they will identify all unknown soldiers buried in France.
Thus the number of buried now changes yearly with the latest body
receiving honors this past summer.

There is even one soldier from WWI who is actually buried in this WWII cemetery.

President Theodore Roosevelt, cousin to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had 4 sons.
All four sons served in WWI. The youngest son, Quentin, was a WWI flying ace who was shot
in the head during a dogfight and whose plane eventually crashed.
Two other sons suffered serious injuries during the war but
it was Quentin who remaind behind as he was buried in Belgium.

Years later his older brother Teddy Jr, who was at this time a grown man with a successful
business and political career was also a soldier.
Teddy Jr was actually a brigadier general.

By 1944 Teddy Jr. was in poor health suffering from both a serious heart condition and
crippling arthritis.
Knowing of the impending invasion, Teddy Jr. requested to be assigned as a
leading commander.
Yet due to his health, his initial request was denied.
Undeterred, he petitioned the high command and was allowed to serve as leading commander.

Teddy Jr. bravely lead the assault on Omaha Beach.
Four days later, Brig Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr died from a massive heart attack.

The Roosevelt family was asked if they would like for Teddy Jr’s body to be brought home for
burial at Arlington—however knowing that Teddy would want to remain with his men,
he was buried in France.
The family then asked if Quentin could be exhumed from his grave in Belgium and moved to be
beside his brother.
The request was granted.

And so when I hear of the stupidity, yes stupidity, about over-payed Football players, athletes,
and even now cheerleaders, who are all wanting to kneel during the singing of our National Anthem…
claiming that the flag of the United States does not represent them…
I am incensed.

Those kneeling individuals such as Colin Kaepernick, who is the poster face for
all things disrespectful, are no heroes.
It is not a risk to life to kneel rather than stand at the start of a ballgame.

He and his ilk are certainly entitled to their feelings and thoughts…
Kaepernick may even speak out and state his peace as to why he feels the flag does
not represent him or who he is—and who he is is a young man of mixed heritage
who happened to have been adopted as a child and reared and raised by a white family
who afforded him all the privileges and comforts of a middle-class family life…
He attended and played football on scholarship at UNLV–in part because that was the
only school, as reported by his mom, who would give him a scholarship.

And yet the irony in all of this is found in the lives and eventual death of those
young men from a previous and different generation who were actually the ones who
stormed those Norman beaches…
They were fearful and nervous as to what awaited them on that fateful June day in 1944—

Young men…some who prayed, some who smoked, some who whimpered through tears
and those who sat stoically before they were given the call to charge…

They raced into the sea which turned red with their blood, racing into a hail of
machine gun fire, grenades, and bombs blasting all around them…
they did so for the likes of Colin Kaepernick and his NIKE sea
of followers…they did so as well as for you and me…for those of us who are humbled
by their bravery and for those of us who prefer to show disdain for the same flag these
young men proudly carried and quickly died under…

https://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries-memorials/europe/normandy-american-cemetery#.W8j6f6eZP2Q

In war, there are no real winners

“Older men declare war.
But it is youth that must fight and die.”

Herbert Hoover


(The Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux circa 1077 / Bayeux France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Backing up a bit from yesterday, I should have actually started our story here—
here in the historical town of Bayeux, France.

We had journeyed by train from Paris to Bayeux where we would be staying for three days.
Bayeux is most notably known for being the home to the Bayeux Tapestry…

I spent a good bit of one Art History class in college studying the Bayeux Tapestry…
seeing it up close and personal was a treasured treat.

According to Wikipedia, the tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 meters (230 ft)
long and 50 centimeters (20 in) tall,
which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William,
Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex,
later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.
It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle.
It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans,
but is now agreed to have been made in England.

And so it was becoming apparent that battle and conquest have each been a part of
this Norman coast’s history…
As our purpose for being in Normandy was to visit the sites from a different generation’s conquest…
those areas of the northwestern coast of France which have become seared into human history
for simply being the right place and the right location on an infamous June day in 1944.

It was to be a key and pivotal location in order to guarantee Western Civilization’s
freedom from tyranny…security from tyranny that came at such a tremendous cost to
human life…
a cost that many of our current society’s cultural left demigods have long since
forgotten.

We began our quest with a visit to the German Cemetary.

Normandy is not just the home to the American war dead but to
the British, French, Canadian, and yes, the Germans as well.


(The German cemetery, Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Mike, our guide, explained that the American Government made the promise to bring home
the body of any serviceman whose family requested such in order that they could bury their
loved ones on US soil— otherwise, the burial would be near to where they had died—
in a cemetery that would become known as the American D-day Cemetery—

On the other hand, the German Government following their defeat and division of
East and West, could make no such promise and therefore their dead remained in France…
with often two bodies per grave.

The ages of the German dead are young…many being in their teens or early 20’s
as this was the beginning of the end of Hitler’s reign and desperation was
now very apparent…as the ages of those who are resting in these graves
will forever remind us of the face of desperation…children dying
on the battlefield.

The American cemetery is currently maintained by the US Government…
The German cemetery, on the other hand, is maintained by the German Military.
To this day it is part of every German soldier’s responsibility to journey to Normandy to help
“keep up” the cemetery.

We were told that there was a letter found at the cemetery written by a local
middle school student.
In his letter, a letter that was written to the young men not much older than himself
and long since dead, stated that he had no ill will or bad feelings toward
these young German soldiers who had once occupied his own homeland
as they were doing what they thought was right…that being the defense of their homeland.

And so what we learned as we solemnly looked out over a sea of black crosses,
was that there are no real winners when man battles man.

Perhaps it would behoove our Nation to remember this little fact as our courntry is
so busy marking its hateful divide over both left or right.

We can see this mystical equation of joy and suffering in all the events of Christ’s life,
culminating in His Passion and death, which are neither an accident nor a postscript,
appendix, or addition, but the very consummation, the fruit and flower,
of His life. He lived backward, for he lived in order to die;
and we can understand His life only if we follow his life with our thought and think backward,
as we can understand a rose only if we look backward from the flower to the plant.

Peter Kreeft
from Doors in the Walls of the World

(all pictures by Julie Cook)

the importance of an oral tradition

The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ;
Jesus Christ [has done so] from God.
Having, therefore, received their orders…
and thus preaching through countries and cities,
they appointed the firstfruits [of their labours],
having first proven them by the Spirit,
to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe.
Is it any surprise if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by
God appointed those [ministers] before mentioned,
when the blessed Moses also…noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions
which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him,
bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed?

Clement of Rome


(Trajan’s Market complex, Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

Only 1 out of 10 in the Roman Empire was literate.
9 out of 10 were illiterate and couldn’t read!
To build the Church upon a book would’ve been a stupid idea if that was all that there was.
We’re already now into the fourth and fifth century and nobody had this book to even read.
Where did they hear it?
In the Mass.
Think about this: if you were in these first generations and you didn’t have this book,
think about how you would listen to the readings at Mass differently than you do today!
Those were words of gold for you because you couldn’t read them for yourself.
You would listen and you would memorize what you were hearing because you might
never hear those words again in your life.

Steve Ray
from Finding the Fullness of Faith

The Creator

“To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind,
but that the majority of men will not let Him save them,
is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent,
and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.”

Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God


(Le Mont-Saint-Michel / Normandy, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

“Now, may our God be our hope.
He Who made all things is better than all things.
He Who made all beautiful things is more beautiful than all of them.
He Who made all mighty things is more mighty than all of them.
He Who made all great things is greater than all of them.
Learn to love the Creator in His creature, and the maker in what He has made.”

Saint Augustine, p. 136
An Excerpt From
Augustine Day by Day


(a view of the “chruch on the rock” at low tide / Julie Cook / 2018)

whew….finally back home

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”
Kate Douglas Wiggin


(flowers in the garden of Les Invalides / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Oh, there is so much to share, so much to tell and so much gleaned…

And yet there is so much to unpack, so much to wash, so much to sort, so much to put away…
and yet running over to see the Mayor today will have to take precedence.

Sleep you ask?
Going on a good 36 hours without any…well, that makes for being a bit giddy or
perhaps more like sloppy and delusional…either way it will come.

I wrote so many posts in my head these past 18 days.
God revealed so much.
But it will take some time to put running thoughts to paper…or more like thoughts to keyboard.
And it will take a few days to sort it all out.

So forgive me but it will take some time in order to play catch up!

But for now…I wanted to share something I read yesterday offered by C.S. Lewis.
Thoughts I found to be rather quite profound.

But I know, I know….what doesn’t C.S. share that isn’t profound…???

Yet this particular passage spoke most pointedly to my heart in a most humbling way…

Please enjoy and be blessed as I was…and know that I will be trickling back
into this blogosphere family of ours…

“Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house.
At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.
He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on:
you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and
does not seem to make sense.
What on earth is He up to?
The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of –
throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.
You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage but He is building a palace.
He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C. S. Lewis

waiting and hoping toward wider horizons

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.
We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel,
that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget,
that until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man,
all human wisdom is contained in these two words,
‘Wait and hope.’

Alexandre Dumas,
The Count of Monte Cristo


(a view looking out over the north Georgia mountains with veiws into North Carolina / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The way Jesus shows you is not easy.
Rather, it is like a path winding up a mountain.
Do not lose heart!
The steeper the road,
the faster it rises toward ever wider horizons!”

Pope John Paul II

What is a saint?

A saint is somebody who has learned to love God.
Learned to love. It’s nothing extremely mystical.
It’s that a person really tries to be united to God, to love our Lord with all his heart.
To escape from that prison that we find ourselves in sometimes of our personal
selfishness and self-centeredness, which we carry with us.
In spite of the fact that we have all sorts of shortcomings and sins and so forth,
if we are striving to love our Lord with our whole strength,
that is a growing in the sanctity of life.

Fr. Jerry Gehringer
from Being a Saint in the World


(mother’s tea rose bush is blooming again / Julie Cook / 2018)

“God creates out of nothing.
Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.”

Soren Kierkegaard,