July 31, 2004

ST. AVOLD

VDH writes about our military cemeteries in St. Avold, France:

The inscriptions at American graveyards admonish the visitor to remember sacrifice, courage, and freedom; they assume somebody bad once started a war to hurt the weak, only to fail when somebody better stopped them.

I've been to St. Avold, on Veteran's Day, led by two old men who understood Joe and Tommy's sacrifice. My distant relatives from Lorraine, who lost a brother in WWII, took me to see the greatest generation that slumbers beneath French soil, at a time when that unfortunately didn't mean as much to me as it does now. That rainy day in November 1998 I was more amused than anything as these two septuagenarians insisted that we talk to every cemetery director and guard so that they could introduce me as their cousine américaine. They were so proud to be sharing Armistice Day with an American, and I was a dumb kid who didn't appreciate their enthusiasm.

One of those grateful old men passed away last fall, and I was too stubborn to go see him. Only today did I realize that I let my hatred of France prevent me from paying respect to a good and decent man. I let things like this get in the way of family and honor. I realize that I have been so angry at our former allies that I refused to go say goodbye to a dear old man, and all of a sudden I feel ashamed.

The men of St. Avold would've wanted me to behave better.

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