DRAGUIGNAN, France – The Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Resources, and Plans, at U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa visited the Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial in Draguignan, France, to pay tribute to fallen service members during a Memorial Day ceremony, May 27.
During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Kenneth “K. J.” Norton spoke to fellow and multinational guests, including American and allied service members about honoring these fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom.
“It is especially humbling to be here with you at Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial where we are in the presence of 860 marked and 60 unknown graves of our fallen service members,” said Rear Adm. Norton. “May we also never forget the lives and testimonies of the 294 Soliders, Sailors and Airmen listed on the Wall of the Missing, this is indeed hallowed ground.”
Rear Adm. Norton then recited an excerpt from a message President Ronald Regan delivered on Memorial Day in 1983.
‘“Today, as in the past, there are problems that must be solved and challenges that must be met. We can tackle them with our full strength and creativity only because we are free to work them out in our own way,”’ said Rear Adm. Norton. ‘“We owe this freedom of choice and action to those men and women in uniform who have served this nation and its interests in time of need. In particular, we are forever indebted to hose who have given their lives that we might be free.”’
Following his remarks, Rear Adm. Norton, along with other U.S. and French dignitaries, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the buried and those still missing.
The ceremony was organized by the American Overseas Memorial Day Association with support from French military regiments from Canjuers, Draguignan, and Dijon Airbase, and United States military members from Aviano Air Base and Naval Support Activity Naples in Italy. Distinguished guests included Mrs. Diane Kelly, U.S. Consul General in Marseille; Mr. Max Piselli, mayor of Draguignan; and various senior French and U.S. military leaders.