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Remembering the crosses: 21st SW members attend D-Day memorial

Cub Scout Garrett Blenkush, 7, pays his respects to fallen U.S. servicemembers in Normandy, France, recently. Garrett and his brother Severin Blenkush III, 10, together with more than 3,600 scouts, descended on the beachhead and surrounding area April 25-27 for a beach cleaning service project followed by a memorial service on Omaha Beach. The scouts are sons to Lt. Col. Severin Blenkush, commander, Detachment 1, 21st Contracting Squadron. (Courtesy photo)

Cub Scout Garrett Blenkush, 7, pays his respects to fallen U.S. servicemembers in Normandy, France, recently. Garrett and his brother Severin Blenkush III, 10, together with more than 3,600 scouts, descended on the beachhead and surrounding area April 25-27 for a beach cleaning service project followed by a memorial service on Omaha Beach. The scouts are sons to Lt. Col. Severin Blenkush, commander, Detachment 1, 21st Contracting Squadron. (Courtesy photo)

Cub Scouts Severin Blenkush III, age 10, and his brother Garrett, 7, see first hand the cost of freedom as they look over the headstones of fallen U.S. servicemembers in Normandy, France, recently. More than 3,600 scouts descended on the beachhead and surrounding area April 25-27 for a beach cleaning service project followed by a memorial service on Omaha Beach. The scouts are sons to Lt. Col. Severin Blenkush, commander, Detachment 1, 21st Contracting Squadron. (Courtesy photo)

Cub Scouts Severin Blenkush III, age 10, and his brother Garrett, 7, see first hand the cost of freedom as they look over the headstones of fallen U.S. servicemembers in Normandy, France, recently. More than 3,600 scouts descended on the beachhead and surrounding area April 25-27 for a beach cleaning service project followed by a memorial service on Omaha Beach. The scouts are sons to Lt. Col. Severin Blenkush, commander, Detachment 1, 21st Contracting Squadron. (Courtesy photo)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Every three years, the Transatlantic Council of the Boy Scouts of America host the "Normandy Camporee" in France. On April 25-27, about 3,600 scouts and family members from all over Europe gathered on the beaches where the famous World War II D-Day invasion took place.

The event kicked off with a beach-cleaning service project followed by a memorial service on Omaha Beach. Later on the same beach, the council hosted an awards ceremony where scouts and adult leaders received various honors. On the morning of April 27, all 3,600-plus scouts, in uniform, lined around the reflecting pool at the American cemetery. There, one scout from each group placed a wreath of flowers honoring all the fallen resting so far from home.

As the commander of Detachment 1, 21st Contracting Squadron, stationed in Copenhagen, Denmark and as the Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 865, I knew attending the Normandy Camporee would be an event that my two boys - Severin III, 10 and Garrett, 7 - and I would never forget. We loaded up our camping gear and made the 1,800-mile round-trip drive.

The beaches and surrounding communities were beautiful. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like on D-Day. Having studied WW II and served in Iraq, I really felt a strong sense of gratitude and respect as I stood on the shoreline. The American cemetery was equally inspiring with manicured grounds and white gravestones methodically laid out. My youngest son thought it strange that "all these people were born in the same year." I replied that the gravestones indicated the day that person passed away.

Both sons could not believe how many crosses there were. I hope that, as the years pass, the significance of that place will mean more to them each time they remember all the crosses.