Follow-up: France on Veterans Day
For Veterans Day weekend (which coincidentally is my husband’s birthday so this doubled as a birthday present), we went to France to see as many war memorials as we could. I’ve said this before but it doesn’t matter how many of these cemeteries or memorials I go to, they always strike me as profound. We started at the Lorraine Cemetery in St. Avold, which is the largest WWII cemetery in Europe. Dripping with the morning’s melting frost, the stark white marble crosses seemed to go on forever as the turning leaves dropped gently around them. The Visitors Center employs a very hospitable older gentlemen that was not only excited to see Americans but to share his extensive knowledge on this and other war memorials in France (my husband, who can’t get enough of WWII history, was more than happy to listen to everything). Once outside the center, we visited the chapel – tall and foreboding, it seems to stand watch over the sleeping troops while providing a silent place for reflection. At the other end of the cemetery, a tall stone wall topped with a proud eagle gives the visitor a beautiful view of the grounds. From this point, we watched the groundsmen respectfully place flowers and rub dirt onto the crosses, making the letters more visible in the marble. The silence was only broken when the chimes in the chapel spoke up to play each service’s song. Otherwise, even the birds held their tongues.
We continued on to more memorials, including the Sommepy Memorial, St. Mihiel Cemetery and Memorial, and Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and Memorial. Sommepy is a World War I memorial that still has trenches zigzagging through the area. It’s surreal to stand in the trenches, knowing that the ground below once held crouched men that bled so I could freely stand there many years later. St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne are also cemeteries near Verdun. We visited in the pouring rain on Veterans Day and I kept thinking of the song “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”, which alludes to rain actually being tears of those in heaven.
I’ve always loved the word ‘liberty’ – I think it’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Seeing it firsthand in these memorials and cemeteries, though, takes the concept of liberty to a whole new level. In order to share these shots of liberty, I’m posting my photography from this trip into a new Imagekind online gallery called ‘American War Memorial Gallery’ (to be up and running next week!). Although these can be purchased just like the ‘Europe For the Senses’ gallery, 100% - every single penny - of the profits from this American War Memorial Gallery will be donated to the American Battle Monument Commission for the continued maintenance of these sacred sites.
God bless the U.S. troops!