By Sgt. Kristin Merrimarahajara, Marine Corps Forces Africa
BELLEAU, France --
Marines from 6th Marine Regiment and the 2nd Marine Division band traveled to Belleau, France, to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate, alongside their French Allies during a Memorial Day Ceremony on May 29, 2016.
Belleau Wood is the location of a bloody battle that occurred during WWI 98 years ago, in which the lives of many French and Americans were lost while combating against German soldiers. Though there was carnage around every turn, U.S. Marines never gave up fighting for themselves and for their French brothers-in-arms, eventually earning the nickname “devil dogs” from the Germans.
“They had never encountered an enemy as fierce as the German Army—a professional, veteran fighting force equipped and supported by modern weaponry,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps. “When the Marines emerged from the Wood twenty days later, bloody but victorious, they were transformed forever… The Marines who fought at Bois de Belleau left an enduring mark on our Corps. Their dogged determination has become the stuff of legend.”
Guests of both French and American descent attended the event to honor the military members who fought valiantly to protect their rights and freedoms throughout history.
“Today we gather to honor the memory, the service, and the sacrifice of all the men who fought here, side-by-side, for liberty—Marines, soldiers, American and French. We return here annually to remember them and be fortified by their example, and to rededicate ourselves to the ideals they died for,” said Neller.
On either side of the Americans and French participating in the ceremony are the graves of thousands of military members from both countries who have died upholding the values of their nations.
Each year, citizens and service members gather together to remember the fallen from WWI, the Battle of Belleau Wood, and every other fight since.
“This day bears witness to the indestructible ties that unite U.S. and French service members,” said Lt. Gen. Francis Autran, representing the chief of the French Army. “These links are strong. They are deeply-rooted in the history of our two countries. The have forged the brotherhood-in-arms we see today to honor the memory of these heroes surrounding us and that of all who have fallen since then, in every theater of operations where we have been and where we still are deployed side by side.”