Monday, May 25, 2009
Memorial Day poppies blooming in my field this morning.
Question: what do you get when you cross a francophile, an American patriot, and a sappy sentimentalist?
Answer: Polly-Vous Français, for one. And there were many others.
Last week, on the occasion of Lafayette Day, four WWII Veterans were awarded the French Legion d'Honneur for their service and bravery in France, mostly in 1944. The ceremony at the State House in Boston included school children singing "La Marseillaise" and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The Presentation of the Colors by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery. Young students eagerly waving their hands to ask the Marquis de Lafayette [actor] questions about his life.
Presenting the medals to the honorees, French Consul General François Gauthier remarked, "The French will never forget" the courage and help of the Americans. If there were dry eyes in the house as the citations were announced, they were few. Almost every speaker ended his talk with a solemn, heartfelt "Vive la France and God Bless America!"
Legion d'honneur recipients flank Consul General François Gauthier. Lafayette, portrayed by Loic Barnieu, on the right.
Trust me, I'm not a knee-jerk, rah-rah, flag-waving-in-your-face kind of patriot. (And I was a terrible history student.) But for one thing, the honorees were all about the same age that my late father and step-father would have been. Both served in WWII.
And all my life I have been unable to sing the words O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife without my voice wobbling, cracking, and disappearing to a hush. (And FWIW I still think it should be our national anthem.)
At lunch after the Legion d'Honneur ceremony, I sought out each of the honorees to express my appreciation. I shook their hands and said, "Thank you for...." Unable to finish, I had to swallow hard and just utter a second, faltering "Thank you."
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