This is a view of the American Cemetary in Epinal, France. It holds the graves for over 5,255 American military, most of whom died during the campaign through northeastern France to Germany, in World War II.
I was able to visit there with my family over the weekend; it is just an hour or so from where we live. We looked to be the only ones there, and took our time walking quietly, and reading the names and inscriptions.
The cemetary is more than 45 acres at the feet of the Vosges Mountains. Outside are rolling hills and dense forests, but inside is a landscape of carefully tended graves and landscaped lawns. It feels like a peaceful, rippleless pond in the midst of a choppy sea. Combined with a thick, protective wall on the far border, it's as if the designers tried to represent the rest and peace we hope are accorded the dead, after the hell on earth they experienced in war.
As I looked as the names on the wall of the missing, I wondered how long this memorial will be there. How long will there be a cemetary gaurdian, how long will the graves be tended? Will people be able to tend to this place as long as people live? And if they are able, will they still want to maintain it in respect and reverence?
I don't know, I just deeply believe that it is important to remember these people, and the events of war.
In Paris, L'Arc de Triomphe marks the roundpoint at the top of the famous avenue, the Champs Elysee. It is enormous, and was originally built under orders of Napoleon. Now it is a national memorial for France's wars. A couple summers ago I was there with a friend, and I translated to her this inscription, the radio address made by Charles de Gaulle from London once he had fled the German invasion of France. France had just been split into two, between the German-occupied North and the unoccupied South. He said, in part:
- "But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!
- "Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone! She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. She can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.
- "This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it..."
The US ensured that France and our other allies were not vanquished, that they were not left alone. And after the war ended, the US did not claim Germany or Japan or any other country, in fact we extended aid so they could rebuild their nations, and they are indeed two among the strongest and productive countries in the developed world.
As a general result of the treaties and agreements after World War II, America is still a major military strength in shipping lanes and elsewhere in the world. Frankly, I do think that eventually other nations should become independent of American protection, but for now, they are not. The strength of these United States is still a vital force in the modern world, the world still depends on American exceptionalism.
The most pressing social issue today is the economy