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    Epinal American Cemetery Honors Legacy of Fallen Service Members

    Epinal Memorial Day Ceremony

    Photo By Spc. Thomas Dixon | Brig. Gen. Steven P. Carpenter, commander, 7th Army Training Command, lays a wreath...... read more read more



    Story by Lacey Justinger 

    7th Army Training Command

    EPINAL, France – The U.S. Seventh Army liberated Epinal on Sept. 23, 1944, and Seventh Army established Epinal American Cemetery in October 1944 as one of two permanent American cemeteries in the south of France.

    On May 26, 2024, the historic Seventh Army patch was again present in Epinal for the Memorial Day Ceremony at the American Battle Monuments Commission site.

    “The patch I wear today is the same patch as the Soldiers who marched these fields back in 1944,” said Brig. Gen. Steven P. Carpenter, commander, 7th Army Training Command. “The men and women of 7th Army are proud of our history. We’re honored of the legacy of the heroes who came before us.

    “Americans who gave their lives in defense of democracy and the free world, the western world, as we know it,” he said. “Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion for the freedoms that we all enjoy today.”

    Of the nearly 70,000 American service members buried in American Battle Monuments Commission locations in Europe, 5,255 are buried at Epinal American Cemetery.

    To the crowd of predominantly French citizens, overflowing the chairs, sitting on steps, leaning against walls, gathering on paths and standing before towering hedges of blossoming flowers, Carpenter thanked them for their continuous devotion to honoring the memory of fallen Americans in France.

    “Your presence here on these hallowed grounds is a testament to the enduring strength of the U.S. and French relationship,” he said. “Despite France’s own loses and the trauma of two World Wars, the French people are committed to preserving the legacy of the fallen American service members on their soil. As an American citizen – not as a general officer in the U.S. Army or the commanding general of 7th Army - I just want to say that we’re grateful.

    “It’s an honor to share this field with all of you, to be amongst all of you to pay tribute to these great service members here today.”

    Amongst the French elected officials representing local towns, regions and the nation; French troop, cadet and civilian emergency response formations including the Délégation Militaire Départementale des Vosges (DMD-88); French veteran, patriotic and special interest clubs and organizations like the Porte Drapeaux; a few other languages and accents could be heard. Ages varied. Children sat alongside their elders in wheelchairs. Yet all remained focused on the field before them, U.S. and French flags fluttering alongside each other, to honor the sacrifices of the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy decades ago.

    Yvonne Gonzales, U.S. Consul General – Strasbourg, spoke of Allied armies joining together to defend shared values of freedom and democracy, and of Americans who would leave their native soil to fight against tyranny alongside Allies.

    “As we gather on this day, we recall those who did not return after the guns fell silent,” she said. “Americans, in all their diversity, made their contributions to the war. Now they rest together. These sons and daughters of the U.S. are now sons and daughters of France as well.”

    At Epinal, there are 14 pairs of brothers buried side-by-side; 23 Native Americans; 138 African Americans; 13 members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team; six bomber crews who served together – buried together; four Medal of Honor recipients; four women, and two Tuskegee Airmen. Thousands of stories and memories.

    James Williamson, superintendent of Epinal American Cemetery, said that the Memorial Day ceremony is held annually, “to pay solemn tribute to the men and women who rest here, in the land they fought to liberate. We honor their unspoken pledges and their unknown words; we remember their sacrifice and we will never forget.”

    Notable honorees attending the ceremony included the family of Pfc. Roland Lavoie, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, originally from Rhode Island, who was killed in action Nov. 5, 1944; and a former French Resistance member Stefan Lewandowski, who was with U.S. Forces at the liberation of Pont-à-Mousson and was later captured and sent to Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

    Additional U.S. Department of Defense representation at the ceremony included Chaplain (Maj.) Brad Beier, U.S. Army Europe and Africa; 2nd Lt. Anna Kemper, U.S. Air Force; and a four-person color guard from U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet.

    With 2024 being the 80th anniversary of World War II and the 75th anniversary of NATO, both Gonzales and Carpenter highlighted the importance of carrying the legacy of these fallen into current times and conflicts.

    “Their legacy continues our alliance in defending democracy. Our commitment to this partnership remains unassailable. Today, the U.S. and France stand united,” Gonzales said. “Together we continue to uphold the vales of liberty and justice, confronting tyranny and defending the sovereignty of nations. Let us pause for a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today.”

    “The opportunity that we have here today is not different than the generations that came before us,” Carpenter said. “It is an opportunity to make an imprint on the world.

    “Thank you for what you continue to do, to honor these 5,255 service members who passed in defense of what we hold very dear, but probably take for granted – our freedom.”


    Date Taken: 05.26.2024
    Date Posted: 05.26.2024 12:46
    Story ID: 472283
    Location: EPINAL, VOSGES, FR

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