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We will never forget

Memorial Day Omaha beach France

I will never forget watching this American speak to the lost soldiers on the beaches of Normandy. Today we honor those who lost their lives, au champs d'honneur.

Memorial Day

    : jour des soldats morts au champ d'honneur
     (day of commemoration of soldiers who were killed in action)

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the French definitions, recording today's sound file from his field of vines where he's paused to remember soldiers: Download MP3 or Wav file

Le Memorial Day est un jour de congé officiel aux États-Unis, célébré chaque année lors du dernier lundi du mois de mai. Historiquement, il était nommé Decoration Day, en l'honneur des femmes et hommes qui perdirent leur vie durant la guerre de Sécession. (Wikipedia)

Memorial Day is an official holiday in the United States, observed each year on the last Monday of May. Historically, it was called Decoration Day, in honor of women and men who lost their lives during the American Civil war.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

On La Fête des Mères, yesterday, we were gathered round the picnic table, eating barbequed moules, salmon, and aubergines, when the irony of it all hit me. Mothers Day in France is the day before Memorial Day in the States.

I looked over at my 19-year-old son, amazed. Thank God we've never known the draft

Mothers Day was never more meaningful--celebrated the day before remembrance day. So much to be grateful for: my son, freedom, and most of all those who fought for it. 

On this day we often hear the free citoyens promise: "We will never forget." Let's remember, now, by honoring those who lost their lives, les soldats morts au 'champ d'honneur.' 

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Omaha beach barbed wire
Do you ever take your freedom for granted? (Photo taken from inside a bunker on Omaha Beach.)

July ceremony

Thankful for his freedom. Our then 16-year-old son, Max, during his French recensement militaire, or military duty.

Omaha beach memorial
Sacrifice. Courage. A soldier remembers:

"I started out to cross the beach with 35 men and only six got to the top, that's all." --2nd LT Bob Edlin

J'ai commencé la traversée de la plage avec trente-six hommes, six seulement sont arrivés en haut des falaises.

American Cemetery Normandy
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is one of many American cemeteries in France. To comment, click here.

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Cynthia Crumlish

My Dad was not in Normandy but in the South Pacific. Bougainville, Guadalcanal. He just died at the end of March at the age of 95, retired Colonel in the US Army Corps of Engineers.


We have been, more than once, to the American Cemetery, Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach,and even a nearby German cemetery. I can think of few things anywhere more touching than that cemetery and the beaches. What bravery! Those boys gave everything. We owe them more than a day off work with cook-outs, picnics, and parties. All those who gave their all deserve our profound gratitude, laced with wonder at their courage.

rick chinn

Thank you for your thoughts. You are right about the draft, and how fortunate Max is to have never known it. My era is Vietnam, but I have visited Ohmaha Beach and the American cemetery there. Do you remember in Star Wars, as our heroes arrive at the planet Alderan, just after Darth Vader destroys it, and Obi-Wan says that he just felt a giant disturbance in the Force? That's what I felt when I visited the cemetery. It was quite moving.
The museum in Caen is also worth visiting, and Veterans of any era can get a discount on the admission fee.
But yes, absolutely, let us never forget those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Nan Morrissette

Dearest Kristin,
I treasure the memories of walking the beaches and cliffs and cemetery of Normandy on Memorial Day last year. It was a very long, sometimes overwhelming day, interspersed with moments of sheer beauty and piercing sadness. Occasionally my path would intersect with yours and Jean-Marc's, bringing me back to the present and reminding me that It helped to have friends nearby.
Before our visit there, I never had any idea of what the soldiers went through or what costly miracles they accomplished. Wandering through the museum, one alternates between dropping one's head in humility and lifting one's eyes to the sea where an entire fortified harbor appeared almost overnight.
Much love to you and Jean-Marc and thank you for reminding me of that extraordinary day last year.

Joyce Patterson

My husband and I visited the American Cemetery in Normandy on Memorial Day 2010. We were amazed by the flowers sent from towns all over France and by the small American and French flags placed at each grave by school children. It was quite moving and a reminder of the bond between the United States and France.

Connie Venskus

I found nothing more moving on my trip to France than being on the beaches in Normandy where my Dad landed a couple of days after D-Day. He retold many times the story of how he stepped off the landing craft and being five feet tall and weighing only 115 pounds was weighed down underwater by his heavy backpack (the landing craft had stopped too far offshore)He was saved by a much taller fellow soldier who grabbed him by his backpack to pull him ashore. The sight of those perfectly-aligned white crosses and the quiet broken only by the pealing of bells playing patriotic songs was very emotional and it all came back to me in the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" which is set there. I was unexpectedly overwhelmed in the very first moments of that movie!It helped me understand the survivor guilt that me Dad sometimes expressed.

Mary Keates

I have seen that view from the bunker of Omaha beach and walked through the American cemetery more than once ... and am so very grateful.I also have sons who never knew the Draft.
But Verdun,that really made my heart cry.WWII really was a continuation of The great War.Standing on the Fields at Verdun made me understand why Soldiers walked away.
A lighter note: When my husband and I were living in Paris in 1996-97,there was a large transportation strike which seem to last forever.We had rented a car to go somewhere outside the city.I saw a much older woman standing and waiting for a bus(it ran very infrequently).I said to my husband,"let's stop and pick her up".We did,and dropped her at her destination.As she was getting from the car,she thanked us,and commented that it was the second time she was saved by Americans!

Mary Underwood

Now our wars are fought mostly by the poor or those who can afford an education through no other means. After 9/11 many volunteered. We didn't have enough troops to support what we were doing and so these individuals (whether or not one agrees with the need of war) were sent two, three, four times to the front at great cost to them, their families, and ultimately to our society. Do you know what it is like to watch a small child say 'goodbye' to his father not once, but four times? Honor to fallen comrades would drive many of these soldiers back to service. Our legislators easily keep us in wars, not knowing what it is like to lose a son or daughter to death or to life-long injury and I believe that the cost of war is often lost on those who experience no personal loss. I protested the war in Vietnam. I was against our horrible decision to invade Iraq. I have great respect for our armed forces, not so much for those who fail at diplomatic solutions or who quickly advocate war for political or profit motives (and they do). I favor the draft now because if all are called on to serve, all of us have more 'skin in the game' and might pay more attention to what our lawmakers are doing and perhaps push them to take a step back instead of rushing in with troops. War may be necessary at times but not as a first response. My father flew a bomber (a Liberator) in WWII and I am proud of his service and for our involvement in that war. Thank you for your thoughtful blog today (and every day). My flag is flying, remembering those who have fallen.

Alyssa Ross Eppich

I never met my grandfather, Bernard Glenn Ross because he was killed on the way to Metz in October, 1944. He died when a bomb hit the building in which he was sleeping located in Sivry, near Pont a Mousson. I think of him every year over the Memorial Day weekend because his loss, when my father was 8, had such an effect on our family in the years to come. I wish you a lovely Mother's Day, Kristin and I offer my thoughts and prayers for the brave men that came before us.

Sandra Hemsworth

My uncle Tom was in the Normandy landings with the British forces, he was in the tank regiment. He was fired upon by some Germans and was the only man to get out of the tank alive. As he ran for a ditch he was fired upon and was very badly injured in his buttock and leg. As he lay in the ditch two Germans came, one was about to shoot him when the other pushed the rifle away. They threw him into the back of a hay cart whilst they went to an Inn, leaving him there to die. Oh but he didn't, he was rescued by the French Resistance. Two very very brave women hid him between themselves in a bed as the Germans searched the village for him. My nana in the meantime had lost one son in the Atlantic and had been told her other son Tom was missing in action. Unbeknown to her the French Resistance managed to get him back to England and safety. She and my mother, Tom's sister had a joyous reunion with him in a military hospital in Birmingham.


Thank you, Kristin. You wrote a very nice piece.


Seeing the graves of those who gave all is incredibly moving. God bless the soldiers.

Cheryl in STL

I'll be in Normandy next week, on those beaches and in those cemeteries. My first visit during D-Day week. It's an overwhelming experience any time, but I'm hoping to be able to speak with some people who lived through that day.


Darling Kristi,

You are always here with just the right words to keep our minds and spirits on the right path as we forge ahead into the unknown future.

I am always so proud of you Honey - for all the heartfelt work you put into the stories you share with us.

Your photography in this vignette is straight from your heart. May God bless all your work to keep us on track of what is really important in life….gratitude to all who have made our lives safe since this tragic and horrific war.



Hank Sweet

Never forgotten.

Jane - Scarborough, NY

What a beautiful Memorial Day email to get today. I used to march with my parents (my father a veteran of WWI, and my mother and I as Girl Scout leaders) years ago. My father-in-law was also in WWI; it wasn't until this year, when I read Anne Perry's books about WWI that I learned of the horrors of that war.

Jeanne in Oregon

My ancestor, John Carothers, commanded the Armory in Carlisle, PA during the Revolutionary War. Growing up I remember learning about "Uncle Johnny", my great-grandmother's older brother who died, not of injuries but of disease, as did a great number, during the Civil War. My husband served in the Navy in Special Forces during the Viet Nam conflict. My son served as a US Marine early in the Noriega days in Panama and was recalled after his discharge to serve in the first Gulf War. I salute those who died for my freedom and those who were willing to do so.

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

All I feel on this day is incredible sadness and gratitude. And shame that the VA is letting our men and women down. Thank you for your thoughts and pictures. From our Civil War through today the people of this country have preserved their freedom. Freedom changes the world and all who live in it. We will NEVER forget.

Audrey Wilson

Thought provoking & moving photos & words . I have visited Vimy Ridge & war cemetries, British, Canadian & German. Those lines of crosses & those young ages on them all point to the horror & needless slaughter which ensued. In any small village here in France there is always a War Memorial listing ,sometimes, all the male members of one family.
You can only salute all those who gave their lives. Will we ever learn ??


My husband's mom landed near Normandy on D Day. She sat up all night with a wounded soldier promising him she would write his mother. He died. She wrote. He would never be forgotten by the two mothers, the one who gave birth to him, and the one who held him when he died. May we always remember the price men and women pay for our freedom.

Vivian Langley

Kristin: My only sibling, brother Conrad was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and 3 1/2 years a prisoner of the Japanese. He retired from the US Air Force; died in 1975. One nephew Conrad, Jr., a Naval Aviator, first carrier in the Gulf War. Nephew John, Navy, Nuculer (sp) welder. His four sons: Air Force, Marine, two currently in Navy. Remember them. Vivian


Heart wrenching but très à propos certainement.

Kathleen from Connecticut

War is not the answer, but it keeps happening. My husband and I visited Normandy and the cemeteries, which touch the soul and you know that there should not be more wars. The letters at the German cemetery stated the exact same sentiments, but no avail.
Thank you for taking a picture which includes the Star of David,because most pictures of the American cemetery never show the Jewish star and least we forget how many of our Jewish brothers/sisters fought during WW II.
And as Rick mentioned, everyone should visit the Peace Museum in Caen. It is so moving. We were there one year from the day of 9/11 and there was a piece if the World Trade Center there.
My father also was in WWII and was in Morocco and ended up in Paris. He only spoke about the liberation,but not about the horrors of the war.
Thank you Kristin for your remembering of our fallen and disabled. There are few Veterans still alive today. My father died in 1982.

catharine ewart-touzot

what a lovely Remembrance..and to me perhaps even more meaningful. The "Peace" museum is one of the first places my French husband, a French naval officer, took me..then to the cemeteries..French and American and German..the first time I visited there was on the celebration of 50 years. The French had made gardens with flowers spelling out thank you. My father, an army doctor always wanted to come and visit the grave of his best friend who died that day..Daddy died this past Thanksgiving. My son is a Lt Col, 3 deployments..maybe we all need more peace memorials..museums. Anyone who has not been to these, and can, needs to put these on their must do list. One post said now it is mostly the poor who serve..not true, there are still fine young men and women with many choices, who choose to serve their country, as their Mothers and wives hope for other choices to be made. As we here in the US allow these men to die waiting for care my prayer is that this Memorial Day we as a country rise up and DEMAND that our soldiers be cared for ahead of everyone else!

Judy W.

My husband's father fought in WWI in France when he was a boy of 14. When my husband and I were in France a few years ago, we made a point of going to the war memorials and the cemeteries in the North. Even the smallest town, it seemed, had a war memorial. Each one brought tears to my eyes, but the Canadian memorial dropped me to my knees.

Heather Clark

It is fitting that you should make the connection between Mothers Day and Memorial Day, as the original call for Mothers Day was made by mothers who has lost their sons in the American Civil War. See here:

Randy and Debbie Komisarek


My wife's half brother (her father's first wife died) was 17 years old when he was seriously wounded while landing at Normandy just after D day. He died in England and is buried at Cambridge. This is the 70th anniversary of his death and we plan to lay a wreath (the first from our family) on his grave in June. Your post brought back the memory of Joseph Laskody a young American who gave his life for France and for civilization. Living in France now we think of him often. We are all the beneficiaries of these sacrifices.

Randy and Debbie Komisarek
Bateau "Alouette"

Chris Allin

Soldiering has called my family and my husband's family for many generations. A love of country and a way of life. And today, such great sacrifice from young soldiers and families. Kristin caught an unbelievable and poignant moment with the thank you on the Normandy beach that chilly, rainy day. How it brings tears.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Thank you Kristin for the lovely post & photos.

God bless all the fallen patriots, and current patriots for their sacrifices and for keeping our country safe.

joie in carmel-by-the-sea

My father was in the South Pacific during WW II when I was born. I will call him today and thank him. I have never once taken for granted the freedom we have. It especially hit me on my first trip to Europe in 1968 when I walked a good portion of the Berlin wall and then the next day we went into East Berlin through CheckPoint Charlie. On one side of that gate the sun was shining and the birds were singing.....on the other it was overcast, grey and oppressively silent.
Even today as I watch so many places in the world at unrest or without the freedom that all should have, I am even more thankful. You never want to think of "what could have been".

susan klee

I agree with Mary Underwood, who believes that if all of our young men and women were subject to conscription, our Congress might not be in such a hurry to send them into battle. For millennia, old men have sent the young ones out to be killed and to kill. But if the sons & daughters of those old men are among the youngsters? In Vietnam, the soldiers *who did not want to be there* brought the war to an earlier close than might have otherwise been the case. Isn't an all-volunteer military force in a democracy very dangerous? And I still honor the millions of young American lives (since 1860) and those of our "enemies" that have been cut down.

Karen from Phoenix

I get tears in my eyes whenever I think of all the men and women we have lost in the wars over the years. My Dad made it home from WWII but many of his friends didn't.

I thank all of those who gave their lives and all who are still serving. Keep them safe.

Nancy,                     Cambridge

Thank you for writing your own story about Memorial Day, WWII, visiting cemeteries, and honoring the dead (and I thank you for letting me write my story last year, remember? -about my Uncle Alan who is in the Lorraine American Cemetery.)
Anyway, wanted to say that my grandmother's birthday was Nov 11, Armistice Day, and her son, my uncle Alan, had been KIA on Nov 10, 1944. Somewhat the same as Mother's Day, Memorial Day. It is a curious, but poignant, juxtaposition.


This breaks our hearts each time we remember, but we don't want to ever forget. Thank you, Kristen, for a simple and eloquent post.


Thank you for your article. If only every American could have the opportunity to visit all of the Normandy beaches and war memorials. My husband and I were in the American Cemetery in October and he had the privilege of helping lower and fold the American flag late one afternoon. Such an honor and so moving as Taps was played. We spent 6 full days reliving WWII! Also, the Memorial in Caen in just incredible. We spent over 5 hours there - that much time should be allowed for a visit. We could've easily spent another hour or more. I'm so glad we were able to do all of that and more in Normandy. What a beautiful part of France - truly hallowed ground.

Diane Young

The Memorial Day Concert on TV last night showed a heartbreaking story of a soldier who took his own life because he couldn't prevent his best friend's loss of his leg and years of therapy. The guilt overtook him. Please pray for the many veterans who have devastating illnesses because of their combat experiences. God bless America and all who served.

Paul Beck

I visited Normandy on a cold, rainy February day. I was one of only a few people there that day. It was my first and only time that I have made a visit to this sacred spot. I still remember walking into the cemetery and being so moved by the sight in front of me.

As I walked around and contemplated the events that happened there I could here in the distance the American National Anthem play. I looked around to see what was happening and saw the American Flag being lowered for the ending of the day. It was in the distance and I stood there with my hand over my heart as tears swelled in my eyes and I watched my country's flag being lowered. I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude but also guilt as I have never had to fight in any war but yet am the recipient of so much that others have given and sacrificed. May we live each day, not just holidays, with this in mind and show it in our everyday actions towards each other.

Thank you for bringing this memory and feelings back to me.

Eileen deCamp

Thanks Kristin for the lovely remembrance and photos!


Our dear Kristi,
What an incredibly touching post today.
The first picture of Thank You brought tears to my eyes.
My father,Thomas B. Grandin,made the first eye witness radio broadcast of the Normandy Invasion;the jeep he was driving was later blown up by a bomb and he hardly survived.
I regret that during his lifetime I was never really and truly aware of the heroism and sacrifice which he,and all of his fellow soldiers, made on our behalf so that we may live with the privileges of freedom that we do today.
THANK YOU for such a meaningful reminder.
Natalia XO

Les Cooper

I read Bob Edlin's quote and could not stop my tears.
So many brave men lost in an instant of time.

Patience T. In L.A.

My dad,Leo Fish was in the Navy in WWI and my husband was in the Air Force in Europe during WWll. Many memories of the stories they both told of their experiences. We thought we would never need to go to war again. Unfortunately a new generation came and the old men took us into more and more wars. It is so sad. Thank you Kristin for today's post. I,too, have been to the beaches and the memorials and cried for the lives lost. It is a puzzle why mankind can't fine a way to live without conflict. I have many ideas but no one will listen.

Brenda Chinn

My husband and I walked on the beach at Normandy and also visited the World War II museum there. Afterwards,while walking in town, we came upon three British WW II veterans in full uniforms covered with medals. They cheerily posed as I took their photo. While conversing, they were surprised to learn that we were Americans. I guess that our Chinese faces fooled them. Visiting the area was really moving and memorable.


What a beautiful tribute. I plan to visit Normandy one day. My my half-brother's father was shot down over French soil.

PJ Whelan

Thank you for sharing these photos which I just posted to our airport FB page. They are beautiful in every sense and speak volumes.

Pat Cargill

Thank you , Kristin for this lovely remembrance.

Michael R. Blair

I do so appreciate the American Soliders that died that other countries could be free and left a legacy and example for all mankind to see.

Gary R.- Rodan

I heard on pbs that a total of 70 million people died in ww2. Many brave many not but all gave their lives. WW2 probably changed our lives even today more than any other evenr in the 20th century. the largest invasion in history, d day left only 2 kind of people on the beaches, including Normandy...those already dead and those who would die if they did get off the beach...
When I was 21 a pre-induction physical related to being drafted. If I has passed it, I would have received a draft notice. As an immigrant but not a citizen, I would have the choice to leave within 40 days, losing my immigration status forever. Ironically, if I had passed the physical, perhaps today I would be living in France
By the way, when I was in school in England in the fifties, Both England, I know, and France had a draft. I am curious when did it stop? What were the politics involved?

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