Last year on 23 August from my bedroom at Villa Ndio I heard recordings of the Canadian, British, American and French national anthems blaring from across the way so I went down to the traffic circle nearby to find a ceremony taking place – so today when I heard bagpipes in the distance I knew immediately what was going on. I grabbed my camera and hollered up to Kathy to come on down. We were on time to watch this year’s version of the ceremony commemorating those that gave their lives in the second invasion of France by the allied forces, the one called Operation Dragoon that came from the south, east of Marseilles and west of Cannes. See the map among the photos below. The ceremony honors in particular the Americans, British and Canadians that gave their lives during the Great War to rid the world of Nazis. Two things made today’s experience particularly meaningful to me.
One is the current furor in the United States over the demonstrations by White Supremacists – Nazi sympathizers that promote racism – and the profound recognition that millions of people lost their lives to this scourge either as victims of it or in battle against it. We cannot and must not forget the deplorable consequences of racists in power.
The second is a project I am currently engaged in, assisting David Wilkerson in revamping a website honoring classmates from my high school that have passed on. The ceremonies today along with these current efforts are a poignant reminder of our vulnerabilities and mortality.
The pictures posted here capture a range of perspectives – the setting, the memorials, the dignitaries, the military vehicles, and the men and women dressed in the uniforms and regalia of the mid 1940’s, plus my photographer’s eye for faces and fancy. It was a sight to behold indeed. When the Star Spangled Banner played I sang along softly. Afterwards a women came up to me and asked “Vous êtes américain? ” to which I responded “Mais oui!” She then carried on about how grateful she was that I was there to represent my country and that it made her emotional to know I was there. Wow.