Living up to their organizations’ commitment to “preserve the memories and incidents” of its associations in the Great Wars, the leaders of the American Legion Family placed wreaths at cemeteries containing the graves of nearly 14,000 American military dead in France Friday and Saturday.
American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad, a veteran of the Army’s famed Old Guard, led the delegation which includes American Legion Auxiliary National President Kathy Dungan and Sons of The American Legion National Commander Greg “Doc” Gibbs. Dungan and Gibbs are eligible for membership in their respective organization’s due to the service of their World War II veteran fathers. Dungan, the daughter of Army veteran Wittie Card, and Gibbs, the son of Marine veteran Richard Gibbs, participated in tributes at Normandy American Cemetery and Brittany American Cemetery.
“A sense of emotion just takes over when you see the enormity of the sacrifice of so many American heroes displayed right before you,” Dungan said. “It is appropriate that they have such peaceful and beautiful environments as their final resting places.”
Gibbs shares the sentiment. “The legacy of their sacrifice, not just of these heroes but their families, needs to be honored and remembered,” Gibbs said.
Reistad, who arrived in Europe on May 25, also placed wreaths at Luxembourg American Cemetery, Flanders Field American Cemetery and Mardisson Memorial at Bastogne, Belgium.
“When I walk through these cemeteries, I like to look at the names on the markers. Each of these young veterans has a name and a place that they considered home. By visiting them, I feel like in some way I’m keeping their memory alive,” Reistad said. “At Brittany, I had the honor of meeting Leonard Jindra who is a surviving World War II veteran who was there to pay his respects. There will come a day when there are no World War II veterans left. When that day comes, we will have to work even harder to ensure their legacy is always remembered. That is what The American Legion does. That is who we are.”