Go to almost any village or town in France and you will see a memorial, often right in the middle of the main square, honoring the French dead. "Morts pour la France" is the usual inscription which is then followed by a tragically long list of names. It is said that over a million French lost their lives in this war which is sometimes referred to by older people as the "la Guerre de 14." This day was declared a national holiday in 1922. Everyone has the day off today and there will be ceremonies in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe where a Flame of Remembrance is kept lit on the tomb of an unknown soldier.
I never met a member of our family who fought in the Great War. The Second World War is another story. On the French side my father-in-law was a young officer in that conflict and went on to serve in Indochina and North Africa. I was told that he very much wanted his son to go into the Navy but it was not to be. But the elder Frenchling's godfather did and was recently serving in the Mediterranean.
On the American side (and I was a bit surprised to learn this) my great-aunt, Georgeanne Amans, served in the American Navy during World War II. I have no idea what this daughter of an American/French-Canadian family (she was bilingual French/English) did, but I am intrigued. I have a small medallion that was hers that was given to me by my grandmother that says "Pistol Expert." She must have been one tough lady.
|Arthur Heath, Rachel Heath (nee Smith) |
and Pete Smith
It has become the custom in recent years in the United States to thank serving members of the military for their service to the country. It is a dignified and respectful gesture that I like for its simplicity and sincerity.
So, on this day I honor the members of my family, both French and American, who served and risked their lives in order to make this world, the one in which we live today in relative peace and prosperity, possible.
Thank you all for your service.
News Flash: A few hours ago Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of the French Republic, announced that he will sponsor a bill that will make Armistice Day a day to remember the Great War and all those who died for France. More here in the French paper Le Point.