BELLEAU, France — More than 300 Marines and sailors from commands throughout Europe and the United States, along with approximately 2,000 French locals, gathered at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery here for a Memorial Day ceremony May 24.
The gathering marked the 91st Anniversary of the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood, and was attended by Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, and French Brig. Gen. Eric Bonnemaison, Commandant of the 9th Brigade Legere Blindee de Marine. Each year, thousands come together at the 42.5-acre cemetery to honor the memories of the 2,289 war-dead who are buried there.
The ceremony featured remarks by the Mayor of Belleau, Mrs. Monique Benier, along with memorial addresses from both Amos and Bonnemaison. The laying of wreathes, poetry readings, and performances by the French Army Band, the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and the Silent Drill Platoon were also featured.
Today, let us pay tribute to the men who gave their lives for us and let us be worthy of their legacy,, said Bonnemaison. Their sacrifice will not have been in vain if our Army and your Corps maintain this respect for a soldierrs duty which extends up to the supreme sacrifice. In the annals of history, 1,087 Marines proved the friendship that the United States feels for France. We belong to an alliance that is renewed here each year and, in this place in particular, we feel its strength and duration..
Local nationals, along with service members, their families and tourists, watched the formal ceremony before walking into the nearby town of Belleau to attend a reception hosted by Benier. The small, centuries-old town with its spring gardens in full bloom, welcomed U.S. and French service members and their families with open arms and friendly smiles.
I wanted to attend to experience the opportunity of a lifetime as a proud Marine and American,, said CWO3 Norma Rucobo, Marine Forces East G-1 Assistant Personnel Officer. Rucobo attended the three-day event at her own cost, and said her personal take-away from the experience was The sense of pride and gratitude expressed by the people of the town, the spectacular sights, and the flyby as the memorial ceremony commenced. This experience was phenomenal. I think every Marine should live such a priceless opportunity..
During the reception, the group enjoyed Champaign, musical performances by several French groups, and the opportunity to drink from the famed Devil Dog Fountain.
Everything was perfect,, said Marine Cpl. Alfonzo Torres, adjutant clerk for Marine Corps Forces Europe. I was very excited due to the fact that I was able to visit a place where we were first ever called Devil Dogs!!