On our way to Pisa we made a special stop.
It wasn’t on our itinerary, but it was felt important enough to be a bit spontaneous, and help us also remember the more recent history of life in this area of Italy ---by paying our respects to those Americans who lost their lives fighting to bring freedom back to this area that was under Fascist rule during WWII.
This is the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial.
And it WILL take your breath away.
After the liberation of Rome on June 5th, 1944, the US 5th Army and British 8th Army, supported by the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces pushed northward toward the Gothic Line.
The Gothic Line was a major German Defense taking advantage of the Apennines Mountains that separate central Italy from the Po Valley.
Many battles ensued between the summer of 1944 and May of 1945. The long and bloody Allied campaign liberated Italy and contributed to the success of campaigns elsewhere in Europe.
Carrera Marble crosses in the sun.
You will find 70 acres of beautiful Italian countryside immaculately manicured and divided into 8 sections.
Our travelers pay their respects.
In this memorial there are 4,398 headstones radiating in gentle arcs from the memorial pylon at the center back.
My heart is full.
Living in North Carolina, we have many battle fields and memorials and cemeteries for soldiers who lost their lives during the revolutionary or the civil war.
Here in Italy I came upon the grave of a North Carolinian who found his final resting place here on the slopes of a beautiful and scenic, albeit foreign land, giving his life for those who would likely never even know his sacrifice.
This is one of those sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, sweethearts, uncles, friends –who never made it home.
It is likely that his family was never able to make it all the way to Italy to pay their respects for this soldier.
The sculpture of a soldier of the 363rd regiment, 91st infantry division stands watch over the graves of the fallen.
The memorial consists of 4,322 Latin crosses, 76 Stars of David.
Also memorialized are those 1,409 Missing in Action, 213 Unknowns.
There are FIVE sets of brothers.
There are a few women --Nurses and others who are buried here as well.
I didn’t expect this little side trip, but I am forever grateful that we went. I may never make it to Normandy, but I made it to the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial in Italy.
And I had sweet friends to share it with!
I was able to make this trip to Italy—indirectly or directly---I shall never really know ---because of those who gave their lives during WWII.
This day I said Thank You.