For eight years, while I lived in Germany, I took part in a service project at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France through Girl Scouts. It is the largest American cemetery from WWII in Europe and over 10,000 men and women are buried there. The project consisted of laying flags, one American and one French, on each grave and presenting wreaths to the dignitaries during the memorial service. Here are a few of my reflections and on why this remains important to me…
It is peace, not war, that burns brightest for peace is marked with the knowledge of sacrifice and a burden of grief for those left behind. And war is a desperate struggle, without time to pause or contemplate. Only action must be pursued. Peace is also a gathering of all the freedoms that those before fought for, died for, struggled against the darkness for so that light and life could prevail. It is the knowledge that friends stand arm-in-arm and that the American flag waving looks all the more beautiful and proud next to the French in the fields of France. Raising the flag above the place of rest for ten thousand in the early morning sun, at the age of ten, seared honor and liberty into me. St.-Avold is nestled into my heart, a part of the past, a part of the freedom of the future. It is a remembering that comrades in arms were separated by the dark curtains of grief, so that I could live in peace with my friends side-by-side.
Arm-to-arm, they still stand, and together we unite and salute back in the laying of the flags, the presenting of the wreaths, in extending a hand of friendship still. And when I presented the wreath to the American ambassador, at the age of 18, I knew that I too was a part of that continuing diplomacy, of those who pause to remember and strive for the light and peace and friendship that seventy years after the first landings of France in D-Day remain the guiding precepts of what is truest and best in life.
When I stood in Normandy and looked across the fields of crosses and the rolling waves, I knew that the story continued- far away to the east, near Germany that I too love- for it has emerged from that terrible darkness that it suffered under as well. Europe is so much a part of me- my heritage, my growing up and my present and future as well.
Those flags waving side-by-side are friends arm-in-arm and I remain always wonderfully proud to be a free American in a free Europe.
My best to you all,