Centuries ago a family arose near Courcy, a village in Normandy, France. Later they emigrated to Ireland and then the USA, settling in the Midwest. By 1944, a young descendant named Robert Ahern, Jr. was flying a P-38 fighter-bomber out of High Wycomb, England, toward Alençon in Normandy.
The date was April 23, six weeks before D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe. Robert was on a strafing mission, looking to knock out German defenses. He made a pass over Alençon to warn civilians of his intent; on a second pass, he was shot down and killed by anti-aircraft fire.
Today he rests in one of the military graves at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. The place is 54 miles from Courcy, where his family began.
Robert was my cousin, gone before I could know him. On May 19 I visited his grave for the first time. It's a peaceful spot, on a bluff above Omaha Beach, where so many died in 1944. All the graves face westward, toward the USA.