It’s Memorial Day, and I’m with my daughter in Newport, Rhode Island, where ironically I discovered a family tie to Newport more than 200-years-old. Have you heard of Oliver Hazard Perry, the Naval Commodore who successfully fought the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812? A statue in his honor stands in a central park in Newport, and his family gravesite (photo below) is just down Farewell Street from my daughter’s house.
I got curious about our family ancestry when I found some intriguing papers in my mother’s files after her death last year. I learned that my paternal grandfather was raised by his grandmother, Virginia Theresa Perry, after his mother died young. Virginia told stories about her famous cousin Oliver Hazard Perry. When I began to read about OHP, my research put the spotlight on Newport, and I was able to learn even more on a visit to the Newport Historical Society.
But enough about me and the Counselman family from Baltimore. So many of us Americans have descended from the pilgrims who braved the seas and landed in New England. Or perhaps your family came from Africa or a more recent immigration. We must honor today all the brave men and women who did their part, large and small, in forming and preserving this “land of the free and home of the brave.”
More than nine thousand service men are buried and memorialized here at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville sur Mer, France. It is sobering to see the lines of crosses that mark each life lost in a courageous effort to defend freedom.
From the Normandy American Military Cemetery in Colleville sur Mer, France, I share with you two maps displayed on the walls showing the Allied Landing on the Normandy beaches on D-Day and the Allied Invasion of Europe that continued until 1945. Most all of us are too young to remember those days, but we should never forget the “Greatest Generation” who liberated Europe, defeated Hitler and restored freedom to the Western World.
I shot these photographs of the wall maps at the Normandy American Cemetery shortly after the 60th anniversary of D-Day in June 2004.
This second wall map shows the movement of Allied forces through Europe from 1944 to 1945. If you want to read a tremendous book about this story, pick up Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day.
*Reference to Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation.
As we remember, honor and pray for the brave Americans who served and died for our country on Memorial Day, I’d like to share with you the beautiful and sad U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. If you are making a trip to Hawaii, I’d highly recommend an excursion to Honolulu, Oahu to visit this special place.
The U.S.S. Arizona is a Navy ship launched in 1915, and it was bombed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 — an attack that drew the United States into World War II. That day 1,177 crew died on board the ship, and the wreck still lies in place under the water. A boat shaped viewing platform was build astride the wreckage in 1962; it hosts over 1.5 million visitors a year.
Nearby, you may also visit the U.S.S. Missouri, a retired Navy ship that hosted the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Japan in Tokyo harbor to end that same war in 1945. I highly recommend that tour as well, as it brings history alive. This plaque names the leaders who were present, including General Douglas MacArther and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz for the United States.