ORLEANS, France -- U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 52nd Strategic Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, strengthened relationships with their French allies by participating in several military events honoring the past and highlighting the bond between the two nations, May 8, 2018, in Orleans.
The Soldiers participated in a V-E Day wreath laying ceremony commemorating the end of World War II and marched in a military parade for the 589th anniversary of Joan of Arc's freeing of the city from the English in the Hundred Years War. The guest of honor at the military parade was French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
U.S. Army Maj. Victor Shepherd, the 52nd Strategic Signal Bn. S-3 Operations, Plans and Training officer, said commemoration and partnership events such as those in Orleans are important because it honors the past, builds relationships and gives strength and purpose to meet future challenges together.
"The commemoration ceremony was to pay homage to those who came before us and who built this partnership from the beginning. Ultimately, our ability to come together to remember what we have done as two nations is a powerful statement to all of Europe," Shepherd said.
Five Soldiers assigned to the 52nd Strategic Signal Bn. provided a color guard during the wreath laying ceremony and military parade. U.S. Army Sgt. Joel Gothel, assigned to the 52nd Strategic Signal Bn., said it was an honor to carry the American flag in a foreign country, calling it a moving and memorable experience.
"The cheers from the crowd, the sheer number of French civilians that came to see the parade and the volume of their reaction was overwhelming," Gothel said. "I was filled with pride and a sense that this was definitely one of the highlights of my career."
He said the U.S. Soldiers had several opportunities to interact and build relationships with their French counterparts, including talking during downtime between ceremonies, eating lunch at the French Army base, and even receiving a helping hand from the French to fill the air in their van's tires.
"I strongly feel that it is essential to work with our partner nations and allies, not only to participate in events, but to grow understanding of each other, our ways of performing similar tasks and to build rapport," Gothel said.
Claude Rozet is president of the Franco-American Association in Orleans, which organizes conferences, dinners and events to talk about different aspects of the relationship between France and the U.S. He said he was 8 years old when the U.S. Army liberated the city of Orleans in August 1944, and spoke of the joy and happiness the people felt then, as well as the enduring relationship between France and the U.S.
"America and France, we are friends for more than 240 years. Sometimes we can disagree on a special subject, but it's nothing compared to all the subjects where we are together to fight for freedom and liberty everywhere in the world," Rozet said.
2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.