There was only one real reason to go to northern France and it was the Beaches of Normandy. After four years of studying war history at Dalhousie University, I wanted to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought and gave their lives for our freedom. Juno Beach, the only Canadian sector, allowed me to re-live the pitiless battles fought by the Canadian Infantry and mindfully walked the beaches in the soldiers’ honor. Juno Beach is sometimes referred to as the Canadian beach because of the Canadian Division capturing the beach on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. The Canadian history, the sandy beaches, and the museum made Juno Beach a fascinating visit. It was a quiet, reflective day that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.
The Juno Beach Centre commemorated the sacrifices of Canadian Second World War veterans. It was both educational and enjoyable. Greeted by a fully Canadian staff, we were directed to a short video presentation to put us in the shoes of the soldiers. We spent an effortless hour touring the centre. The dramatic sound clips and the extensive collection of war memorabilia brought the war effort to life. The collection of letters from veterans was a piece of history that added to the overall effect.
As we stepped out of the building with the stories of Canadian soldiers fresh in our minds, the beach came alive. I imagined the naval ships approaching the horizon and the guns firing in all directions. I pictured a camouflaged helicopter hovering over the ocean and paratroopers dropping to their deaths. Just looking at the now tranquil beach was hardly a reminder of the events that unfolded on the grounds. Without the aid of the Juno Beach Centre tour, I would have seen the beach in a different, brighter light. The tour was a reminder of the devastation of the D-Day landing. The Juno Beach Centre’s real impact lies not in the visuals that it provides, but in the mental images it helps to create.
After spending four hours at Juno Beach, we waited for the bus back to the campground. The poppies that lined the streets were a reminder of sacrifice and, with tears in my eyes, I pulled a couple of them from the ground. . I pressed them in a book that we were carrying in our backpack because I wanted to be reminded forever of the sacrifices that were made before me.