Saturday, July 07, 2007

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la Mort! .....

I apologize for not getting to this earlier in the week, as the United States celebrated 231 years of independence ..... and we weren't the only ones to mark that very special day.

July 4, the anniversary date of the independence of the United States, is also an historic date for France. France supported the American Revolution and was the first country to recognize America's independence. This year also marks the 229th anniversary of the 1778 treaty of friendship between our two nations. My great(x5)-grandfather William was a soldier in the Continental Army during the revolution. We have few details about his service, but there is a chance that he had some contact with the French during that service.

Maybe he did, maybe he didn't ..... but my family's gratitude - and that of our nation - to the French remained long after the guns were silenced. "Lafayette, we are here," General John Pershing (or, actually,
Colonel C. E. Stanton) proclaimed on July 4, 1917, as the American Expeditionary Force (including my great-grandfather Robert, and my grandfather Fred) took the field against the Central Powers in World War I.

America would make an even greater contribution to freedom in France - and all of Europe - in the 1940s (without my family this time ... they were all in the Pacific), during World War II ..... and the French have not forgotten.

"Whatever circumstances and differences of views this friendship might have gone through, we want to reaffirm strongly this profound feeling. We cannot, do not, and will not ever forget the ultimate sacrifice American heroes made during the two World Wars to liberate France," said a group called
The French Will Never Forget. "To show our gratitude and demonstrate again this feeling, we have launched an unprecedented initiative, a symbolic gesture to lay by July 4 a red rose on each and every one of the 60,511 graves and 11 Missing In Action monuments of Americans fallen in France during World Wars I & II."

Observances this year also included a human message-chain, spread across the beaches of Normandy.

So, I am presented with a choice ..... I can ride the wave of the political chic in Washington and West Texas, blast France and others who did not join the Iraq War, and insist on having Freedom Fries with my burger ..... or I can tip my hat in gratitude to the Marquis de Lafayette and others who risked life and limb, family, fortune - and, ultimately, their monarchy - in service to America's independence.

Vive l'indépendance ..... vive l'France!

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