Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Here Lies in Honored Glory

By Sarah Kutz

[Sara Kutz is a member of Emmanuel Covenant Church, Glendale, AZ, C.R.E.C.]

I was thirteen the summer of 2006; growing up was exciting and terrifying at the same time. One of the more overwhelming experiences that year was the opportunity to tour France for two weeks with my choir. We visited awe-inspiring cathedrals, and museums filled with artistic wonders, yet what left the biggest impression upon me was the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Normandy. Seeing for myself the turf where so many died on D-day left me with a greater love and sense of pride for my country. I was filled with the realization that our veterans are often not given the honor they deserve until after they lie beneath a headstone.

When we visited the cemetery that June day the sky was gray and the wind was frigid, as I imagine it was on D-day so many years ago. I wore layer upon layer but it seemed that nothing could keep the cold out. The graveyard lay in a long rectangular courtyard overlooking Omaha Beach and the bleak sky stretched out like a canopy over the rows of marble crosses. Many graves were marked with names, and some were huddled around by family members and fellow soldiers. However, I will never forget how many nameless men were buried there. On those crosses the epitaph read “Here lies in honored glory a comrade in arms, known but to God.” It was on the graves of those forgotten men that I decided to lay flowers. At the front of the cemetery a perfectly still lake mirrored the cloudy skies, and above the water a set of wide steps ran up and out until they met a stone wall above the beach.

After honoring the soldiers’ graves, we made our way over to the steps and began setting up for an informal concert. Our choir director, Miss Sue, had expressly picked music that would be meaningful to our audience of veterans. “Girls” she said, “this is our thank you.” Everyone grew silent; it was as if we stood in an open-air cathedral. The somber mood was unusual for the generally chatty girls, and from our vantage point on the steps we could see across the whole cemetery. We took a deep breath, ready to sing for those now silent.

As the first few notes rang out I could feel the music swelling across the field of graves and echoing back. People standing at the farthest side of the graveyard were able to hear our singing loud and clear. And as we sang the sun stubbornly pushed its way out of the clouds and lit up the once dismal cemetery. As the last patriotic notes faded away I noticed that my choir director was crying, as were many of the veterans in the audience. I remember one old soldier coming up to me and whispering “that was beautiful.” The realization of all that those men had sacrificed for our country washed over me and I hoped that the sincere gratitude I had felt as we sang was accepted as somewhat of a ‘thank you.’

As an acknowledgment of our concert the administrators of the American Cemetery placed a wreath on one of the graves, signed from my choir. After hitching up our long choir-dresses and pulling off our character shoes, we all ran down to the beach to enjoy the now-sunny afternoon. Here and there lay bundles of barbed wire, left over from battle. The beach was almost barren, but once it had been crowded with soldiers and slippery with blood. As I ran down Omaha Beach with my friends, thirteen, careless, and young, I didn’t realize what a blessing freedom is. I think I understand now what those soldiers were fighting for. They were fighting for peace and prosperity and for the hope that one day their posterity would be able to run down that beach without fear. They were fighting for us. I’m still in awe of that day and eternally grateful to veterans then and now, fighting for freedom and innocence in an age of corruption.