A memorial park in Normandy, France, has stood for decades as a lasting tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in the bloody World War II battle to secure La Fiere Bridge in the earliest stages of the June 1944 D-Day invasion. The property is owned by a local group called Amis des Veterans Americains, or "Friends of American Veterans." The property is maintained by the City of Ste. Mere-Eglise. And now, The American Legion shares in the proprietorship of this hallowed ground.
"Our promise is that no matter how many years pass from the time of their sacrifice, they will not be forgotten," American Legion National Commander Charles Schmidt said Sunday in a ceremony at the Normandy site. "The three-way agreement between the City of Ste. Mere-Eglise, Friends of American Veterans and The American Legion sanctifies our commitment."
Thousands attended the Sunday event which included parachute jumps by re-enactors and active-duty paratroopers from the United States, France and Germany. More than 350 jumped in an exhibition attended by a handful of World War II veterans, several U.S. military leaders, including the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe.
The pact between the Legion, AVA and the city requires the written consent of all three bodies before the property - which has a stirring Iron Mike statue gazing over the Merderet River valley - can be sold or used for any purpose other than honor for those who fought here in World War II.
"May our commitment never waver," Schmidt said. "May new generations always understand, long after we are gone, what took place here in 1944 and why this memorial landscape must be kept as it is today, a place of reverence."
At the end of the ceremony, Schmidt joined AVA President Maurice Renaud and Ste. Mere-Eglise Mayor Jean Quetier to unveil a marble plaque at the entry that describes the relationship.