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Je Vous Remercie Sgt. Tokarski

On our thirtieth wedding anniversary vacation, my wife and I traveled through the north of France retracing the footsteps of my Father In Law’s D Day invasion of Europe.

I have no way of conveying in words the feelings I had on my visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Collville-sur-Mer, France.  The cemetery is located on a bluff that overlooks a scenic Omaha beach.  9,670 American soldiers are buried in the cemetery and another 1500 soldiers who were never accounted for have been memorialized. The beauty and sorrow of this place is overwhelming.

During our walk on Omaha beach, we were struck by the distance from waters edge to an area a soldier could take cover.  While standing in the surf my knees got weak and my heart pounded thinking about the bravery it took to make that run on June 6, 1944.

As we traveled the more remote roadways of northern France, we found many smaller American, English and Canadian Military cemeteries in the midst of local farm fields.  Despite their isolated locations, these cemeteries were immaculately maintained.  The D Day museum in Caen illustrated the tyranny the French citizenry faced during the Nazi occupation. The locals often asked if we had any family connection with the American military.  They were effusive in their thanks to my wife.

This immersion in World War II made me appreciate the relatively peaceful period of history my family has lived through.  I am thankful to the thousands of American soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice fighting the Nazis.  Most of all I am grateful to the lively legs and luck that carried Sergeant Chester Tokarski from Normandy to Paris.  I could have easily missed a wonderful thirty years.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS