NO LONGER WILL THEY COME

The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

AMERICAN SOIL IN A FOREIGN LAND – RICH PASCHALL

 A few years ago on V.E. Day, Armistice Day for the end of World War II in Europe, I visited the American cemetery at St. Avold. It is the final home for many of America’s Greatest Generation. It was quiet then. This year, it was even quieter, not just because of a global pandemic, but because they are gone now. No parents, no spouses, no siblings, or army mates will attend any remembrance day.

How a field in France became the resting place for thousands of Americans

In September of 1944, the Third US Army resumed its push across eastern France to drive opposing forces out of France and back across the border. The Seventh US Army, after landing in southern France, was joined by First French Army and drove northward.  The US Air Force provided key tactical support.  On September 21st the Third and Seventh armies joined forces providing a solid line through France to the Swiss border.  On Monday, November 27th St. Avold, France was liberated by the US 80th Infantry Division. This becomes important to our story today.

By December the eastern front was being pushed toward Germany. On December 19th, the Third Army moved northward to counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. The many months of fighting throughout this region brought thousands of US casualties. A temporary US military cemetery was set up at St. Avold on March 16, 1945.  The struggles to hold territory and move forward were paid for in the lives of much of the Third and Seventh Armies.  By the end of the war, the rolling fields of the Lorraine region of France at St. Avold held the remains of over 16 thousand US soldiers.

st avold cemetary france
St. Avold cemetery, France

The burial grounds of the US soldiers at St. Avold as well as four other places across France were given to the United States in perpetuity as military cemeteries. Today the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial is the largest World War II cemetery in Europe. It is bigger than the more honored and remembered memorial at Normandy. Ten thousand four hundred eighty-seven of America’s finest generation lie across this 113.5 acres of land.

There are Medal of Honor winners, ace pilots, 30 sets of brothers, and 151 unknown soldiers.  In addition, 444 names are inscribed on a wall to honor those who lie in unknown graves across this region of Europe. Their bodies were lost and never returned home or to one of the hallowed grounds in France, England, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, or Luxembourg.

When you include those in the Philippines and North Africa (Tunisia), 93,236 American soldiers found their final resting place in World War II on foreign soil that became American soil over time. The ground we visited in France was handed over without charge or taxation by a grateful nation that did not forget the sacrifice of American soldiers who fought a bitter war to win freedom for others and keep the aggression away from our shores.

72-Lorraine-StAvold-ADJ-B

On Armistice Day in France, or what we call VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), May 8th, we walked the hallowed grounds of St. Avold and paid our respects to the greatest American generation. The rows of crosses and Stars of David fill the landscape and remind the few who remain that freedom came at a high price in 1944 and 1945. Americans were willing to stand beside people of another land to win freedom, and now many lie there in eternal rest.

I signed the guest book at one in the afternoon. I noticed I was the only American who had signed in. There were signatures of a Romanian, a German who added “in honor and respect” in German, and two French. One wrote, “We will never forget the sacrifice of their lives.” I asked myself if the sacrifice will indeed be remembered or forgotten in time? Will this become, over the years, just another historical curiosity? A footnote? Ancient history forgotten by many if not most people?

Taps at St. Avold cemetary, France
Taps at St. Avold cemetery, France

It is easy to understand why no Americans kneel and pray in the tall chapel, no relatives to decorate the graves, or loved ones to shed tears. Many at St. Avold were too young to have children when they answered the call from Uncle Sam. They were barely more than children themselves.

Many had no remaining families. If they had siblings after the war, most have passed by now. Anyone who remains alive to honor them is likely at home, in America. Sad that the national holiday in France saw the honored dead receiving about as much attention as our honored dead will receive here at home on this coming Memorial Day. What are your holiday plans?

Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial

This World War II cemetery at St. Avold, France contains the remains of American soldiers who fought for freedom in Europe and did not return home.  Who will be there to decorate their graves on Memorial Day weekend?  Who will decorate the graves of those who did return home?  Will they be remembered this holiday weekend?

 

Click on a picture and go through the larger versions of each. To read more about the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial visit Serendipity blog here.

Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial

This World War II cemetery at St. Avold, France contains the remains of American soldiers who fought for freedom in Europe and did not return home.  Who will be there to decorate their graves on Memorial Day weekend?  Who will decorate the graves of those who did return home?  Will they be remembered this holiday weekend?

 

Click on a picture and go through the larger versions of each. To read more about the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial visit Serendipity blog here.

Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial

Today is V-E Day (Victory in Europe).  This World War II cemetery at St. Avold, France contains the remains of American soldiers who fought for freedom but did not return home.  It is the largest American WWII cemetery in Europe.  It is 113.5 acres and contains 10,489 graves.  A memorial wall commemorates another 444 missing in action.

 

Click on a picture and go through the larger versions of each. To read more about the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial visit Serendipity blog here.

Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial

Last year I visited this site on V.E. Day (Victory in Europe).  This World War II cemetery at St. Avold, France contains the remains of American soldiers who fought for freedom but did not return home.

 

Click on a picture and go through the larger versions of each. To read more about the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial visit Serendipity blog here.

Learn to hate

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear…”

Small children will generally play with anyone and anything they find.  They do not know about hate and fear until they are taught.  Another three-year old is just another three-year old, unless an adult grabs him away and admonishes the child not to play with the other child because he or she is “different.”  That can mean many things to many people but passing along hate and fear is what society is good at doing.  If it was not good at it, then why is there prejudice and hate?  The three-year old can learn to become the schoolyard bully by the age of 8 if given enough instruction.

Teaching fear and hate does not need specific lessons or a handbook.  Adults can simply pass it on through mean jokes, name calling and hateful talk amongst one another.  Kids will get the idea real fast who they should hate.  They want to fit in with their relatives and the social circles they find themselves in, so they will quickly learn to mimic the hate and name calling they hear.  By the time they are teenagers, they might be so full of hate, they are able to beat someone to death.

‘You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear…”

Perhaps mom or dad will be quite pleased when they learn their little Johnny can repeat some of the evil jokes they themselves have told.  It might be amusing to hear their boy ridicule someone he met at school that is different.  They may feel a sense of pride that their son is just like they are.  This only reinforces the prejudice and hate.  Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are.  Imagine the good feeling a child can receive when they realize that parroting back the hatred they hear brings joy to the adults around them.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade…”

There are a whole variety of things that children can be taught to hate.  I could put quite a list here if I think about it long enough.  It’s not just skin color or different eyes, it might as well be hair color, or glasses or clothing.  We can type, or should I say stereotype, just about anything.  Maybe if you just sound a little different you are someone to hate.  Your speech might indicate you are from another part of the world or the country or perhaps just another part of the city.  If a child learns early enough, he/she can hate a wide range of people.  It has to be done early, however, before a child learns to think for himself.  If you wait too long, the child may learn to rebel against the hate.  He may end up to be one of those teenagers who brings home different types of friends.  He may speak about peace and love.  He may join alliances at school that promote tolerances.  He may also be bullied
rather than be the bully.  What would some parents ever do with a child like that?

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

When I was in high school our class put on the play, “South Pacific.”  It is the 1949 musical about fear and prejudice on a south Pacific island in World War II.  When it seems nurse Nellie can not love a Frenchman on the island because of his colored children, she can not explain why.  It is just something she feels.  When the Frenchman comments to a Lieutenant that he does not believe these feelings are born in you, Lt. Cable replies, “It’s not born in you.  It happens after you’re born.”  He then sings the song “Carefully Taught.”  I thought the song was way ahead of its time, even decades later when I first heard it.  Emile de Becque who left his homeland to escape prejudice tells the lieutenant, “This is just the kind of ugliness I was running away from.  It has followed me all this way.”

The play was an important lesson for me.  I had already started to learn the damage of hateful jokes and hateful people.  I guess many of our generation did learn the lesson, but apparently not enough.  Prejudice and hate continue to get passed down.  High profile hate crimes, hate crimes legislation and Public Service Announcements can not begin to eradicate the hate and fear that begins in the home.

I thought all about these things when I realized that the anniversary of one of the most brutal hate crimes of our times is today, October 12th.  It was 1998 when Matthew Shepard was beaten bloody with a 357 Smith and Wesson, “pistol whipped,” and left in a field to die.  The sheriff of Laramie, Wyoming, tells the story of the crime, not for sensational reasons, but because it needs to be told.  Matthew was one of those people who was different and consequently, others were taught to hate him. What was different about Matthew that brought out the hate others had learned?  Matthew was gay.  He was also a young man who should have had a long life ahead of him.  Hate took that away.

Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial

This World War II cemetery at St. Avold, France contains the remains of American soldiers who fought for freedom but did not return home.

 

Click on a picture and go through the larger versions of each. To read more about the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial visit Serendipity blog here.

Learn to hate

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear…”

Small children will generally play with anyone and anything they find.  They do not know about hate and fear until they are taught.  Another three-year old is just another three-year old, unless an adult grabs him away and admonishes the child not to play with the other child because he or she is “different.”  That can mean many things to many people but passing along hate and fear is what society is good at doing.  If it was not good at it, then why is there prejudice and hate?  The three-year old can learn to become the schoolyard bully by the age of 8 if given enough instruction.

Teaching fear and hate does not need specific lessons or a handbook.  Adults can simply pass it on through mean jokes, name calling and hateful talk amongst one another.  Kids will get the idea real fast who they should hate.  They want to fit in with their relatives and the social circles they find themselves in, so they will quickly learn to mimic the hate and name calling they hear.  By the time they are teenagers, they might be so full of hate, they are able to beat someone to death.

‘You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear…”

Perhaps mom or dad will be quite pleased when they learn their little Johnny can repeat some of the evil jokes they themselves have told.  It might be amusing to hear their boy ridicule someone he met at school that is different.  They may feel a sense of pride that their son is just like they are.  This only reinforces the prejudice and hate.  Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are.  Imagine the good feeling a child can receive when they realize that parroting back the hatred they hear brings joy to the adults around them.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade…”

There are a whole variety of things that children can be taught to hate.  I could put quite a list here if I think about it long enough.  It’s not just skin color or different eyes, it might as well be hair color, or glasses or clothing.  We can type, or should I say stereotype, just about anything.  Maybe if you just sound a little different you are someone to hate.  Your speech might indicate you are from another part of the world or the country or perhaps just another part of the city.  If a child learns early enough, he/she can hate a wide range of people.  It has to be done early, however, before a child learns to think for himself.  If you wait too long, the child may learn to rebel against the hate.  He may end up to be one of those teenagers who brings home different types of friends.  He may speak about peace and love.  He may join alliances at school that promote tolerances.  He may also be bullied
rather than be the bully.  What would some parents ever do with a child like that?

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

When I was in high school our class put on the play, “South Pacific.”  It is the 1949 musical about fear and prejudice on a south Pacific island in World War II.  When it seems nurse Nellie can not love a Frenchman on the island because of his colored children, she can not explain why.  It is just something she feels.  When the Frenchman comments to a Lieutenant that he does not believe these feelings are born in you, Lt. Cable replies, “It’s not born in you.  It happens after you’re born.”  He then sings the song “Carefully Taught.”  I thought the song was way ahead of its time, even decades later when I first heard it.  Emile de Becque who left his homeland to escape prejudice tells the lieutenant, “This is just the kind of ugliness I was running away from.  It has followed me all this way.”

The play was an important lesson for me.  I had already started to learn the damage of hateful jokes and hateful people.  I guess many of our generation did learn the lesson, but apparently not enough.  Prejudice and hate continue to get passed down.  High profile hate crimes, hate crimes legislation and Public Service Announcements can not begin to eradicate the hate and fear that begins in the home.

I thought all about these things during this past week when I realized that the anniversary of one of the most brutal hate crimes of our times had passed by on October 12th.  It was 1998 when Matthew Shepard was beaten bloody with a 357 Smith and Wesson, “pistol whipped,” and left in a field to die.  The sheriff of Laramie, Wyoming, tells the story of the crime, not for sensational reasons, but because it needs to be told.  Matthew was one of those people who was different and consequently, others were taught to hate him. What was different about Matthew that brought out the hate others had learned?  Matthew was gay.  He was also a young man who should have had a long life ahead of him.  Hate took that away.