The envelope was addressed to me by name, and had been sent by the U.S. ambassador to Italy. It was an invitation to attend the annual Memorial Day observance at the U.S. War Cemetery at Nettuno, not far from the storied landing beaches of Anzio, and after confirming that my wife and daughters would go with me, I accepted. As guests of the ambassador, I dared to fancy that we might have reserved seats, perhaps near the front, and might be treated to some of the pomp and circumstance of military ceremonies.
So on a cool May morning last year, when my colleagues were heading for the beach or sleeping in, we rose early and dressed for the occasion. We were in good spirits as we left for the two-hour drive. But as the drive stretched on, I wondered if my wife and daughters were beginning to wish they hadn't come. Adding to these fears, I chafed at the traffic and the narrow beach roads that lay before us.