Subscribe
Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, speaks about the sacrifices of soldiers and the importance paying tribute to them during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France.

Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, speaks about the sacrifices of soldiers and the importance paying tribute to them during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France. (John Vandiver / S&S)

Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, speaks about the sacrifices of soldiers and the importance paying tribute to them during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France.

Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, speaks about the sacrifices of soldiers and the importance paying tribute to them during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France. (John Vandiver / S&S)

Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, places a memorial wreath on one of the stands set up at the Lorraibe American Cemetery during a Memorial Day observance.

Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, places a memorial wreath on one of the stands set up at the Lorraibe American Cemetery during a Memorial Day observance. (John Vandiver / S&S)

SAINT-AVOLD, France — There were some 30 fresh-faced soldiers from the 1st Armored Division dressed in civilian clothes and blended into the audience.

The anonymous soldiers, stationed in Baumholder, Germany, are new to the Army and will be deploying to Iraq in the fall. Before they go, however, some more-experienced soldiers thought they should make the short trip Sunday to Saint-Avold in France for a Memorial Day ceremony at its American cemetery.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys. We’re trying to get a sense of patriotism in them,” said Sgt. Maj. Billy Thompson of Baumholder’s 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.

“In World War II it was pure patriotism. We’re trying to give them that.”

At the Lorraine American Cemetery, the troops from Baumholder were among the hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to those killed in battle.

More than 10,000 Americans are buried at the cemetery, where the plush grass is lined with white crosses and Stars of David to mark graves. Among those lying here — the largest U.S. military cemetery in Europe — are 28 brothers and 151 unknown soldiers.

Sunday’s ceremony commenced with a fly-by of F-16 jets soaring in a missing man formation. From the offering of prayers to the presentation of colors and playing of taps, the ceremony was a traditional and solemn display.

“I’m standing on hallowed ground,” said Paul Morin, national commander of the American Legion and one of the speakers. “There is an aura of peacefulness here.”

Brig. Gen. Yves J. Fontaine, an assistant chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe, addressed the audience in both English and French. He noted the long history of cooperation between the two countries in defense of freedom. Fontaine went on to say that the struggle for freedom continues today.

“There are things worth living for and worth dying for,” he said.

A procession of memorial wreaths and floral tributes, from the French and U.S. military, were placed as an Army band played.

“It’s a day to be thankful,” Morin said.

At the Lorraine cemetery, the sacrifices of World War II veterans is evident. It is a scene that, along with Memorial Day, helps connect the past and present for people like Thompson.

“It’s the same fight,” he said. “For freedom.”

author picture
John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up