It’s another Gratitude Friday. Ironically, it is also the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. It seems more than appropriate that I will focus on D-Day here in my blog today.
A few years ago, 2006, I was honoured to be chosen among a group of teachers from across Canada and a few from the United States, to take part in a Battlefield Study Tour for Educators to visit select WWI & WWII sites.
As a History teacher, the journey, was unforgettable. Each participant in the group was assigned the identity of a soldier to research and present to the others at a scheduled time as we visited the various locations on the tour.
Later, as is my custom, the story of the trip and this soldier Russell K. Adamson, worked their way into my poetry. I share, now, a version of this poem that I wrote & posted in response to a Poetic Asides poetry month prompt for “Destination” in 2009. Here is his official military photo plus a photo that I took at the place of his burial. It is a small way of giving a tribute to this young man who perished in the D-Day landing along with so many others as the efforts to free Europe from Nazi control began. Here is my poem.
Walking on Juno Beach
First we walked on Omaha Beach
We climbed the hill that the soldiers climbed and, then,
We drove over to the site of so many Americans
We walked and walked through the rows
Mesmerized by markers and
Mourners who spoke in hushed voices.
Then we drove on to Juno Beach
Where we landed (parked) our vehicles and
Walked down to the shore
Not a peaceful day it was
The wind blew with a strength of D-Day and
The rain-soaked our water-resistant(?) jackets–
The person with GoreTex thanked her lucky stars for her purchase.
We shouted to each other as we trod the beach
The water foaming and frothing
With a thunderous voice
Almost as it was said to do
Several decades ago.
Continuing on our journey,
We walked further up the beach to the House
The first site claimed/reclaimed by the Allies
It stands, refurbished, and welcoming to visitors Recalling the gain of ’44.
Looking back, ironically, for me,
Photos of this day reflect the distortion
Caused by the winds of power
Winds not associated with any particular country
Making a statement–but I digress.
In another August,
Over a half-century later, on our journey,
Our last stop of the day was at a cemetery–Beny-sur-mer
Where my soldier’s remains had been reburied
After the first hurried entombment.
Standing amidst a rain-soaked group of listeners,
In front of a freshly washed gravestone
I shared my words of presentation on
Russell K. Adamson.
I told our group about this young man, RKA,
From small-town Ontario
Who died on the beach of Juno
Just weeks before his 20th birthday–I can’t help thinking that
He would have been the same age as my son who is now studying to be a journalist.
Russell, not a high-achiever at school,
One of seven siblings,
Was content to drive a delivery truck for a local store.
He died on a Normandy beach far away and
So different from the calm Wasaga of his childhood.
After a solemn tribute to RKA
We draped his tombstone with paper and
Proceeded to make a charcoal rubbing of the words
Engraved on the stone.
I carefully transported that paper from France to Ontario
Where it hangs in a poster frame on a wall in my home
Beside a clear glass jar filled with sand and stones
From Juno Beach and Omaha, too.
I photographed the poster with the jar and
Gave a copy to Russell’s brother
Who, now, in his 80s still
Remembers the loss of an beloved older brother.
Back in Kitchener, Ontario,
On stormy, windy days,
My mind goes back to those hours
Walking on Juno Beach.