Americans Helping Americans Abroad

lafayette memorial

Sometimes it is appropriate to leave the advocacy work aside (important as that work is to our mission of helping Americans abroad), so that we can honor those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in some distant land. Lands that we as Americans abroad live in today.

All over the world there are overseas American military cemeteries and battle memorials – some fifty different sites in 16 different countries on five different continents. The United States government maintains these sites at taxpayer expense. It is one of the few federal programs where Congressional interest is both broad and non-partisan.

AARO is proud to be celebrating Memorial Day this weekend with all Americans in the US and abroad. AARO Board members will be attending ceremonies at several sites in France on Sunday, May 27.

Escadrille Lafayette Ceremony

The Escadrille Lafayette ceremony will be held at the monument and tomb of the fallen American pilots in Marnes-La-Coquette near Paris this Sunday starting at 10:00. It is an international affair with French and American military bands accompanying bilingual speeches. The AARO President Neil Kearney will be laying a wreath in the name of AARO and all Americans who reside overseas.

Close up of AARO wreath

The Escadrille Lafayette was a group of volunteer American pilots who came to France's aid starting in 1914. Many were killed in action prior to the US's own entry into the war in 1917. All the fallen pilots are entombed in the crypt at Marnes-La-Coquette, along with their French commanding officer.

Although no longer flown by American pilots, the squadron still operates as part of the French Air Force. The profile of a Sioux Native American warrior – the emblem of the squadron – is still painted on the fuselage of each aircraft.

Mosaic of squandran emblem

Memorial Day Commemoration at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery

June 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood, giving significant meaning to this year's Memorial Day commemoration at the nearby Aisne-Marne Cemetery.

Those who make the trip outside of Paris will be treated to inspiring performances by the world-renowned U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps and U.S. Marine Silent Drill Platoon. Board Member Patrick Morrissey will be there representing AARO and Americans abroad.

Belleau Wood holds a central role in Marine Corps lore. It is where the Germans branded their ferocious adversaries with the moniker Devil Dogs ("Teufel Hunden"), a badge of honor worn by Marines to this day. It is where Captain Lloyd Williams famously riposted, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here" and where Sergeant Dan Daly urged his men, "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" It is where 1,811 US service members gave their lives and another 7,966 were wounded. It is where 2,288 warriors are buried, of whom 251 remain unknown.

The May 27 ceremony will start at 9:45. Patrick recommends that you arrive early as several thousand attendees are expected and the nearest authorized parking will be 3km out.

Memorial Day Ceremony at the Brittany American Cemetery

For the 20th year AARO Board member Tim Ramier will be Master of Ceremonies at the Memorial Day Ceremony on May 27 at the Brittany American Cemetery in Saint James, near Mont Saint Michel. There are 4,800 American youth lying in the cemetery where their families agreed to let them rest following the WWII conflict.

In nearby Saint-Georges-de-Reintembault. Tim will place a wreath following a short ceremony. In Avranches there will a ceremony at 10:00 before the Patton Monument. At 11:00 there will be another before the “Monument aux morts” in Saint James.

And then in the late afternoon at 16:00 there will be a ceremony at the Brittany American cemetery in Montjoie Saint-Martin followed by a Vin d’Honneur hosted by the American Overseas Memorial Day Association (AOMDA), a qualified not for profit which has hosted Memorial Day Ceremonies for nearly a hundred years in Europe and North Africa.

To our members in France, we encourage you to join AARO Board members at one of above events. To our members around the world, we hope you will join us on this day by attending a Memorial Day event in your country of residence.

To find a Memorial Day ceremony near you, visit the American Battle Monuments Commission website.

Lest we forget.