Last Fall I had an unexpected and very emotional experience while visiting our factories near Florence, Italy. It seems very fitting to share it on this Memorial Day weekend.
Mark and I were staying in Florence and decided to spend our Sunday afternoon touring the countryside. Private cars are restricted inside the city so we hired a driver to take us around.
About 15 minutes into the drive we realized that we were headed away from our intended destination. We asked Francesco if everything was ok and he replied: “There is something up ahead I want you to see.”
A moment later we entered The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial. The memorial is framed by wooded hills that rise several hundred feet above 70 immaculate acres with perfectly lined marble markers. It is the final resting place for 4,392 American soldiers who died liberating Italy between 1943 and 1945.
Francesco quietly told us that he brings Americans to the memorial every chance he gets. He said that: “Everyone in your country should know what these young men sacrificed for my country. I think about these boys every day.”
It is impossible to walk the grounds without feeling the enormity of these soldiers’ sacrifice. As the mother of a Marine officer (whose birthday is also this weekend), the experience was almost too much to take in. I wish I could put it into words.
We later learned that there are nearly 57 other American military cemeteries and memorials in 18 countries around the world. These sites are the final resting place for almost 46,000 American heroes who gave their lives defending our country and coming to the aid of others in need. All told, almost a quarter of a million soldiers are commemorated for their sacrifice.
We often remind one another that there is so much more that unites Americans than divides us. Perhaps most of all we are united in the debt we owe to so many young soldiers who gave their life for the lives we have today. There is no greater form of love.
I often think about that October day outside Florence; particularly over the last few months as our friends in Ukraine are fight for their country, and for their lives.
It inspires me to try and live a life that honors those who have given so much to us all.