On this Memorial Day Norm and I traveled northeast of Paris to visit a cemetery hidden in the hills near Bony, France: The Somme American Cemetery and Memorial.
The American and French flags flew side-by-side and at half-staff on this day of memory.
In the distance, towards the edge of the cemetery, the chapel stood silently,
reminding us why these men and women lie here.
Each grave was graced with the flags of the two countries – France, where they fell; and America, their patria.
One thousand eight hundred forty-four rest here.
The once perfectly straight rows were warped by the slope of the hill over time, an appropriate metaphor for life,
its toll on us, and the eventuality that we all face.
One hundred thirty-eight repose with unknown identities.
I want to know who they are. Every one of these brave souls was a mother’s child.
Their mothers – they are who come to my mind when I gaze upon the headstones of these mysterious fallen.
There are three Medal of Honor recipients buried here, such unbelievable heroism.
William Bradford Turner was only twenty-five years old when he died.
The chapel was erected in the honor of all those buried here.
Today it housed the wreaths which would be laid for them during the Memorial Day ceremony.
On this resplendent day, the sun’s rays shone through the stained-glass window…
…and were reflected off the iron door.
I thought that the brilliance of the sun
was the least they deserved on their day.
After visiting the chapel, I continued walking down the rows of soldiers and civilians.
I found one valiant man from my beloved Louisiana.
If anyone can tell me his personal story, I would be much obliged.
And suddenly, amongst the weight of my heavy heart, I noticed new life –
some flowers growing next to Pvt. Dyer’s resting place.
Hope pops up everywhere, and sometimes when you least expect it.
Even this linden tree, stubbornly refusing to let go of winter,
could not hold back forever its spring foliage and the promise of life renewed.
After strolling through the rows of soldiers, I turned to look back.
As they lay there, I heard the flags clanking against the pole in a cadence of military precision,
as though the soldiers were marching up there in the heavens,
where the war is over and peace reigns in perpetuity.
At the base of the flag pole, helmets rest atop olive branches –
a reminder that peace does prevail in this region, too,
and our heroes’ sacrifice was not in vain.
And then it was time to go home.
I had to leave them behind, but I was honored to have stood among them in this hallowed place for a while
to reflect on the freedoms I enjoy that were paid in full by them.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone! ❤