In the annals of history, the recent visit of the Saint Avold delegation to Fayetteville, North Carolina, carried profound symbolism – echoing the enduring ties between the United States and France. This event wasn't the first of its kind; indeed, Fayetteville has long held a unique connection with French history.
On March 4, 1825, the esteemed Marquis de Lafayette graced Fayetteville with his presence; the town itself having been named in his honor in 1783. During his stay, Lafayette found hospitality in the home of Duncan McRae, situated at the present courthouse location. Fayetteville stands as a testament to this enduring historical bond, being the only American city named after Lafayette that he visited.
Fast forward to Sep. 28, 2023, and the delegation visit highlights these historical and cultural ties. This month marked the 30th anniversary of the sister-city alliance between Fayetteville and Saint Avold, France. Mayor Rene Steiner led the delegation, accompanied by Deputy Mayor Madame Raymande Schweitzer and City Historian Pasqual Flaus.
The delegation's journey from France to the United States was made possible by the Cities of Saint Avold and Fayetteville – a testament to the deep-rooted commitment to fostering international relationships. The visit was organized by the Saint Avold Friendship Alliance, whose core mission embodies the values of appreciation and cultural exchange. Their dedication to honoring the sacrifices of both American and French servicemen and women further solidifies the enduring connection between Fayetteville and Saint-Avold.
Saint Avold is home to the Lorraine American Cemetery – the largest American cemetery in Europe. This cemetery honors the memory of 10,481 military personnel who lost their lives during World War II.
The culmination of delegation visit was a memorable ceremony during which Mayor Rene Steiner was presented with a key to the City of Fayetteville by Mayor Mitch Colvin. This symbolic gesture reaffirmed the strong bond between the two cities. The delegation's schedule was packed with various events, including a trip to Fort Liberty, North Carolina.
It was only fitting that Mayor Steiner and his delegation paid a visit to Fort Liberty. The Saint Avold delegation was joined by Ms. Kris Johnson, the organization’s president, Mr. Bruce Haws, board member, and Mr. Ron Schuler and Ms. Sylvia James, planning committee members, who represent the Saint Avold Friendship Alliance who facilitated the visit.
Their first stop was to the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, where they delved into the historical ties and significant contributions of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The delegation toured the museum, being guided by John Aarsen, the museum's director, who provided a captivating account of the division's role in key battles such as the Battle of Saint Mihiel during World War I. This historical journey served as a reminder of the vital role both communities played in the liberation of the French people during times of conflict.
Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton, Fort Liberty's Program Archaeologist, provided a historical tour of Long Street Church, an iconic Presbyterian church showcasing the rich Scottish and Gaelic history of the region. The delegation learned about the church's historical significance and its transformation after being acquired by the United States Government.
The visit to Fort Liberty allowed for meaningful discussions, with Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, Canadian Army Brig. Gen. Pete Huet, and Col. John Wilcox, acknowledging the deep-rooted connection between the communities fostered by the sister-city alliance. The delegation also had the opportunity to interact with French students training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
A highlight of the visit was the insight provided by Capt. Reginald "Reggie" Hamilton and Warrant Officer One Katherine Greene into the meticulous supply chain management system supporting airborne operations. Mayor Steiner was able to don a parachute and witness a demonstration of packing the T-11 Main Parachute System.
The visit exemplified the ongoing dedication to the Fayetteville-Saint Avold partnership. This bond, rooted in history and mutual respect, promises continued collaboration, honoring those who fought for freedom while forging paths for future cooperation.