Normandy residents welcome servicemembers
June 5, 2009
NORMANDY, France (Army News Service, June 5, 2009) Aca,!" Sixty-five years ago June 6, allied forces battled side by side to liberate France. During the D-Day invasion that began that day, American, British and Canadian troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast as part of the largest single-day amphibious invasion in history.
To this day, members of those same allied forces, local citizens and thousands of spectators from around the world come together in Normandy each year to honor those who fought Aca,!" and the thousands who died Aca,!" that day.
Sainte Mere Eglise, founded in the 12th century, earned its place in world history because it stood in the middle of the route the Germans planned to use for counterattacks on allied troops landing on nearby Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, and its residents have not forgotten the sacrifices American servicemembers made for their liberation. To this day many fly American flags alongside the French flags outside their homes.
Families in the area also welcomed more than 350 members of Task Force Normandy 65 Aca,!" the team of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, federal employees and contractors taking part in ceremonies commemorating the invasion Aca,!" by inviting them to dinner in their homes.
"For many of the past 65 years since the liberation of the Normandy area, many of the locals have invited servicemembers in to share experiences," said Michelle Kobie, who invited several task force members into her home in nearby Saint-Martin-sur-Varreville.
She and her French husband, who met during college at Ohio University and moved to France to be closer to his family, invited 15 Soldiers and Airmen to their village, feeding them and introducing them to neighbors and friends as well as the town's mayor.
"Speaking from American experience, I can tell you, you will never find a warmer welcome than you will find here," she said. "The French residents here feel they were liberated and owe their entire freedom to the Americans who defended them 65 years ago."
"This is an unbelievable experience," agreed Sgt. Juan Felix, a parachute rigger with the 5th Quartermaster Company, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany, who will take part in an airborne operation from an Air Force C-130 Hercules over the beaches of Normandy, scheduled for June 7.
"The local residents are doing so much to make us feel welcome," Felix said. "Everywhere we go (people) walk up and thank us for their freedoms, but we didn't do anything. That is how much the sacrifice of those Solders who died on D-Day means to them," he said.
A long list of events are scheduled throughout the week, including more than two dozen memorial ceremonies, a parade of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, fireworks, concerts and a dance in the central square of Sainte Mere Eglise. Even a visit by the President of the United States is planned.
"This is just amazing," said Pfc. Lawrence Hall, an M1 Abrams tank driver with 1st Infantry Division. "This experience started for me the moment I told my parents I was going. I have been in the Army for just over a year, and this is my first time out of the States -- simply amazing!"
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Voss serves with the 435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office.)