Today, Maya and I visited the American Military Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer above Omaha Beach on France's Normandy Coast. It is here that American men and women who wore the uniforms of our military -- Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Corps -- and carried our flag, stormed the beaches and died as part of Operation Overlord / D-Day. Nearly 9,500 of them lie here. They died as part of the largest invasion launched to liberate France and Europe from the tyranny, oppression, and destruction of Nazi Germany.
Those who live in this area still exhibit deep respect and love for the Americans and all of their Allies who fought across 80 kilometers of beaches to advance freedom. At the entrance points on the roads leading into Colleville-sue-Mer are signs featuring a group photo of troops from the Army's 1st Infantry Division that very proudly declare, in French and English, "We thank our liberators." Along the coast in towns and villages stretching from Le Havre to Cherbourg are signs that say, "Thank you." Nearly 70 years after the events of that fateful and decisive day, generations of French remain appreciative and reverent with regards to the sacrifices that were made by young men and women who came from other countries to help free theirs.
It's that word reverent I want to talk about for a minute. As I walked into the cemetery, I was, and those around me were, assaulted by two American women in their 50s yelling to each other across the expanses where lay the bodies of our honored dead.
Yelling. In a cemetery. And not just any cemetery. This cemetery.
I tried politely shushing one of the women, but she chose merely to glare at me. I was appalled by her and her friend's lack of reverence. And these weren't the only ones who were irreverent that day. In striking contrast, the French and Germans who I encountered were speaking in hushed tones or not at all.
And this is as it should. Blood was shed here. Lives were cut short here. Great sacrifice ruled the day here. The least we can do, please, is show some reverence and respect.
HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY A COMRADE IN ARMS KNOWN BUT TO GOD.
Respect that. Whether here or elsewhere, respect that.