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Le Memorial Day: We will never forget

Memorial Day Omaha beach France

I will never forget watching this American speak to the lost soldiers on the beaches of Normandy. Today we honor those who lost their lives, au champs d'honneur.

Memorial Day

    : jour des soldats morts au champ d'honneur
     (day of commemoration of soldiers who were killed in action)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the French definitions, recording today's sound file from his field of vines where he's paused to remember soldiers: Download MP3 or Wav file

Le Memorial Day est un jour de congé officiel aux États-Unis, célébré chaque année lors du dernier lundi du mois de mai. Historiquement, il était nommé Decoration Day, en l'honneur des femmes et hommes qui perdirent leur vie durant la guerre de Sécession. (Wikipedia)

Memorial Day is an official holiday in the United States, observed each year on the last Monday of May. Historically, it was called Decoration Day, in honor of women and men who lost their lives during the American Civil war.

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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

(Story written one year ago)

On La Fête des Mères, yesterday, we were gathered round the picnic table, eating barbequed moules, salmon, and aubergines, when the irony of it all hit me. Mothers Day in France is the day before Memorial Day in the States.

I looked over at my 19-year-old son, amazed. Thank God we've never known the draft

Mothers Day was never more meaningful--celebrated the day before remembrance day. So much to be grateful for: my son, freedom, and most of all those who fought for it. 

On this day we often hear the free citoyens promise: "We will never forget." Let's remember, now, by honoring those who lost their lives, les soldats morts au 'champ d'honneur.' 


COMMENTS

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Omaha beach barbed wire
Do you ever take your freedom for granted? (Photo taken from inside a bunker on Omaha Beach.)

July ceremony

Thankful for his freedom. Our then 16-year-old son, Max, during his French recensement militaire, or military duty.


Omaha beach memorial
Sacrifice. Courage. A soldier remembers: 

"I started out to cross the beach with 35 men and only six got to the top, that's all." --2nd LT Bob Edlin

J'ai commencé la traversée de la plage avec trente-six hommes, six seulement sont arrivés en haut des falaises.

American Cemetery Normandy
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is one of many American cemeteries in France. To leave a comment in today's post, click here

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Some people wear poppies on Memorial Day. Find out why in Jean Pariseau's French poem Au Champ d'Honneur. Click here.

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Comments

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Deborah Crawford

Here in Canada, we too have far too many brothers, sons, husbands, sisters, mothers, wives buried far from home; or left grieving. We are so grateful to the citizens of France (and many other European countries) for the loving and dedicated care given to the memorials and graves. I have distant cousins lying alone in the mud, once having fallen never to rise again, and no body to return home to grieving family members; but his name is memorialized on the Vimy Memorial and we think of him often. He is one of many thousands. Though we don't have a Memorial Day in Canada (our Remembrance Day in November is when we honour them), we do share in our gratitude on the U.S. Memorial Day, I've attended many Memorial day services. It is my great hope to one day visit the Vimy memorial and the resting places of so many. Thanks for your words. We will remember them............

Connie Venskus

I have twice visited the American cemetery at Coleville-sur-Mer. Each time it was a very moving experience. Looking over the expanse of row on row of perfectly-set crosses and stars of David and carefully-manicured greens and then gazing down upon "bloody Omaha Beach" , I remembered with gratitude those who gave their last full measure of devotion for their country. My dad landed on Omaha 4 days after DDay and, fortunately, he did not have to actually fight in a battle as he was in the Second Signal Corps which set up communications between America sand French forces. But I am thankful for his sacrifice today.

Tim Teusink

Merci. Nous nous souvenons leur sacrifice.

catharine ewart-touzot

I would have to agree with Deborah, when I first went to the American cemeteries in Normandy it was the 50th anniversary of D Day..I cried at the messages in flowers, one of the first places my now French husband took me to visit was that cemetery and to the Peace Museum.. I cried at both. My father told me of his best friend who lay there. My former father-in-law was injured there. The American flag flies there for the Americans who died there. So many Americans have died all over the world doing what we thought was the right thing to do..God bless them and their families.

Kathleen from Connecticut

Yes, today, let's remember those who served their country. The Peace Museum in Caen is encredible. Everyone should visit it.

On another note, Kristin, your story inFrance Today is enjoyable. Glad to see you in one of my favorite French magazines.

Kathleen

Roseann

I have to say that all Americans should visit France and the American Cemetery on this day or November 11th. Only then can we appreciate how honored our part and our soldiers part in the war is regarded. It is so close to home for those people in Northern France. And they honor that EVERY year still to this day. It is very moving.

Holly

My son and I visited the American cemetery in October 2012 during a one-day tour. We didn't personally know anyone who was involved in the fighting there but it was very moving, nonetheless. The French people in the area towns were very gracious and thanked all Americans for their sacrifices during the war. I hope and pray that we never have to build such cemeteries in the future.

Julie Farrar

I was grateful for my trip to Normandy. When standing on the beaches I can understanding what an enormous risk and sacrifice it was. I felt the same when looking at all the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

Natalia

Our dear Kristi,
Your beautiful post today fills us not only with gratitude for our freedom,but especially for the sacrifices of all those brave men who gave their lives so that we may have this blessing.
My father was one of those on Omaha Beach that day,and nearly was killed.When my husband and I stood there,so many years later,I could not stop either tears or prayers of thanksgiving.
Thank you for this remembrance.
Love
Natalia. Xo

Patricia Cowan

My husband, USAF LtCol Carlton B. Cowan did get an opportunity to visit Normandy before he passed away...he never forgot the sacrifice shown there and the great victory to free France and Europe. He served in Vietnam and elsewhere more contemporary...We thank those who keep the memories alive for all the world to appreciate!

Chery in STL

I agree with Roseann. I've been to Normandy several times, but the time I spent there last June for the 70th anniversary is etched in my mind and my heart. I had the opportunity to talk with several D-Day survivors and I can't begin to tell you how many French people stopped to say "merci". Those comments plus seeing American flags flying from homes and mairies was just a glimpse of the gratitude I saw expressed. Thank you, Kristin, for this wonderful reminder.

Patricia Cowan

I have read all of Martin Walker's books about Bruno, Chief of Police...I love him and the books.

Cynthia P. Lewis

Thank you for your touching tribute to the thousands upon thousands of young soldiers who lost their lives on "champs d'honneur". (I like this French expression/translation). My father took me to visit American cemeteries in France many years ago. Even at a young age, those long rows of white crosses were heartbreaking to see. It is wonderful that the French people still show such sincere appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Allied Forces during WWII.
Best wishes.


Randy Komisarek

My wife Deborah's half brother was killed at Normandy which I think has deepened our feelings about France. We have his Purple Heart medal awarded for his sacrifice. For that reason our visit to the beaches and the American cemetary a few years ago was especially emotional. I have a small film container of sand from Omaha beach next to my bed stand back in Arizona as a reminder. The French really remember our contribution to freeing France which we always find very heartening. A very appropriate post.

Joan L.

The most touching graves in the American Cemetery in France are the ones that are labeled "Here rests in honored glory a Comrade in Arms known but to God".

GUS ELISON

if you can stand in the midst of one of these cemeteries and not shed a tear, you have no heart.

Nan Morrissette

That was a very moving and powerful day, Kristie. I was so glad to be able to share it with you and Jean-Marc. I will never forget the story of what happened on those beaches.

Joe Lillard

In 1995, the first year we flew our hot air balloon in the Mondial Air Ballons event we landed in a pasture after a great flight and began packing up. Our crew consisted of my daughter, Amy, and some of her friends from Gevrey Chambertin, and several kids from the village of Chambley, the site of the balloon festival. We had just finished when a older gentleman rode up to us on his bicycle and asked about us. With Amy as our interpreter we told him we were American. He smiled as he pointed toward the hill behind us and told us he remembered so well seeing American soldiers coming over it in 1945. He said, "I knew then I wouldn't have to speak German anymore." He talked a little more and then rode away. I know our young French friends were as moved as we were by his words of gratitude. Each year, when we fly in Chambley, we visit many of the French, German and American cemeteries and are sobered anew at the thousands of grave markers that show the real cost of wars.

Nancy Lobalbo

I have an uncle buried at the Normandy American cemetery. I never knew him...he was just a 19 years old Marine when he lost his life at Point du Hoc. One of these days I plan to visit his gravesite to honor his service.

David Navarre

Nancy, many thanks for your Uncle's service and my condolences on your loss. However, if he was at Point du Hoc, he was a Ranger, not a Marine. I love the Marines, but other than those serving aboard ships, they wouldn't have been in Normandy and certainly not there.

Faye

I wept as I sat & watched Memorial Day services in Washington D.C. ...as always. It was a commemoration of all those who died, as well as those who came home as paraplegics or quadriplegics, not to mention those who are permanently mentally & emotionally wounded. Their battle continues whether or not we want to recognize & /or remember that. This battle also continues for their family members. Freedom is not free. I don't ever want to forget.

Thank you, Kristin, for this blog and the lovely and so poignant poem.

Patricia Sands

Thank you for such compassion and poignancy, Kristin. I agree with all of the commenters above who suggest everyone should visit Normandy at least once in their life. Fortunately, today everyone may visit through some touching websites as well, if they are unable to journey there. One of the most deeply emotional trips to France for us was four years ago when we finally found my uncle's WW2 grave in a tiny cemetery overlooked by cows in the midst of farmland. Nevertheless it was lovingly tended with great respect. We owe so much to so many.

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