French Families Honor US Fallen At Normandy

May 29, 2008

Memorial Day has come and gone. How many of us stopped and gave thought to the brave souls who gave their lives in other countries? How many of us wondered if anyone would be visiting their graves and paying them the respect and honor they deserve on this day?

During World War II, 10,000 U.S. service members died on the beaches of Normandy. Unfortunately on Memorial Day, it can be rather difficult for us to go to the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, that sits high upon a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach and pay our respects to the US servicemembers who lost their lives and were buried there. Eight years ago, a French couple founded an organization that adopts the graves of American servicemembers who lost their lives their during the Normandy invasion. They encourage French families to place flowers on the graves on Memorial Day, when their own family members are unable to make the trip to France to do so. The all volunteer group, called Les Fleurs de la Memoire, or in English Flowers of Memory ensures that the brave servicemembers who lost their lives there 64 years ago, are not forgotten. Marie Therese La Vieille, who founded the group eight years ago with her husband, says that she feels it’s important that each Soldier who is laid to rest there, be remembered, when his own family can’t make the trip to France to do so themselves.

“When we joined, we promised to visit the graves once a year and to lay flowers on the graves,” she said. “Sometimes people take flowers from their own gardens. And they say it is like a son, like a cousin, like a brother. It is a member of the family.”

On Memorial Day this year, dozens of members of Les Fleurs de la Memoire shoed up at Colleville-sur-Mer for the annual Memorial Day ceremony. The ceremony begins with a flyover by US jets in the missing man formation. A French priest then recites the Lord’s Prayer, a rabbi chants the Kaddish and a French military band plays the Star Spangled Banner.

Jennie Malcomb, while investigating the death of her uncle PFC Walter Malcomb came across Les Fleurs de a Memoire, and contacted them, asking if they could place flowers on her uncle’s grave. Two months later, she was surprised when she received a photo of her uncle’s grave in the mail.

“It was quite an emotional experience,” she said.

While the ceremony is being conducted, a simple tribute is taking place near the back of the cemetery. Jean Michel Miette, kneels in front of the grave of Jennie’s uncle. He’s the one who adopted Malcomb’s grave. He made the trip from Paris to honor PFC Walter C. Malcomb. He, like Jennie Malcomb, found out about Les Fleurs de la Memoire, just last summer. He’s grateful for the organization which enables him to honor the American Soldiers who sacrificed their lives for his country and for their liberty.

“With enormous emotion in my heart, I want to say thank you, Walter,” Miette says. “I will never forget you or your heroic compatriots.”

Since Les Fleurs de la Memoire brought Jennie and Jean Michel together, they’ve had the opportunity to forge a friendship and speak regularly over the phone. She says that she finally feels like her uncle has family to visit his grave.

What an awesome organization! In today’s world, it’s not often that we see people from other countries understanding what our Troops have given over the years, not only for our freedoms, but for those of citizens of other countries, such as France. I hope that this organization will be able to continue to the tradition that was started eight years ago.



Got something to say?