"Storm by the beach", an article published by the MEUCE
On April 4th, the Consulate General of France in Miami and the Honors College of Florida International University (FIU) were pleased to have the opportunity to honor eight of the surviving veterans of the second World War. This incredibly moving event was held at the Frost Museum at FIU and saw the Consul General of France, Hon. Philippe Létrilliart award the insignias of “Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur” (Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honor) to U.S. veterans who fought alongside France during World War II.
This honor, the highest distinction France has to offer to any civilian French or foreigner, was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, and has been bestowed upon such famous figures as Victor Hugo, Alexander Du-mas, and Douglas MacArthur.
Before receiving this honor, Veteran soldiers met with students of FIU’s honor’s college for a private question and answer session in which FIU students were able to engage with these veterans personally.
More than two dozen students who took part in Professor John Bailly’s study abroad to France were part of the ceremony.
The students have all visited the historic sites of World War II’s battles in France. “[This is] the greatest generation speaking to FIU’s generation,” said Bailly, known for bringing the realities of World War II to his students. “Every student in here will re-member this event for the rest of their lives.”
At FIU, the Formal ceremony began promptly at 3 pm, as participants and Veterans were regaled by the singing of the National Anthem of the United States by FIU honor college’s a cappella group.
In addition to the U.S anthem, the group, lead by honors college student Kamila Manzueta sang the national anthem of France.
Following this melodic introduction, the Honorable Philippe Létrilliart presented these Veterans, who fought in one of America and Europe’s bloodiest wars, with the insignias that they and others had sacrificed so much for in order to earn.
The Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence would like to share with you the wonderful essay Corey Ryan wrote on the Omaha Beach in Normandy.
FIU alumnus Corey Ryan wrote this essay after making two study abroad trips to Normandy Beach, France, with Professor John Bailly as part of the course, Art, War and Human Rights.
On the first trip in 2012, Ryan, an English major, was a student.
Last year, he went as Bailly’s assistant. During the study abroad, students meet with a Holocaust survivor and then visit Omaha Beach in Normandy where Allied Troops invad-ed German-occupied France dur-ing World War II.
I had never heard this kind of silence before, the kind you’d usu-ally reserve for death. I was stand-ing at the bottom of an impact crater and listened for something, anything, really.
’Not the wind, nor the faint murmuring of tourists walking about, and certainly not the sound of English Channel waves crashing against the cliffs.
I felt trapped. My legs couldn’t move.
I wanted to yell for somebody to come and drag me out of this thing, but I couldn’t, knowing that sixty-nine years ago a mortar shell hit this earth and left its mark right where I was standing.
Was somebody standing here, sixty-nine years ago, when it hit?
Climbing out of that crater was like climbing out of Hell, a stark contrast to what I saw when I finally reached the top: the English Channel extending for miles ahead of me, bleeding into the clouds so that it almost seemed like the water rose all the way to Heaven.
On the clifftop where I was standing, dozens and dozens of impact craters similar to the one I just crawled out of dotted the landscape, with a few, destroyed Ger-man bunkers scattered throughout.
This was Pointe du Hoc, one of the many sites of the Normandy landings.
It was surreal being in Normandy, a place of such beauty and of such destruction. I had read the stories, seen the movies, and still, I had a hard time accepting what once occurred here.
We live in the present attempting to understand the past, but we can never relive it.
Leaving the United States for a summer, traveling to France, and visiting Normandy, I was doing my best to understand the world, to understand a time where men and women sacrificed their lives and their futures so selflessly, so that you and I may live in a world without hate.
Earlier that day I visited the ever-personal, and sadly, less-frequently visited, British Cemetery in Bayeux.
As I strolled between the rounded rows of marble crosses, I read the inscriptions the fallen’s family had written at the base of each headstone.
Some were from the Bible, reminding us that their loved ones are in a better place.
Others were more personal: “you were taken but baby Francis came to take your place, your loving wife Marie.”
Some even displayed the camaraderie shared between these soldiers: “the fittest place where man can die, where he dies for man.”
I was confused. I couldn’t understand the selflessness.
I appreciated it and recognized each soldier’s sacrifice, but I couldn’t fully grasp the idea of giving up my own life so that others may live freely. Maybe it’s my fault for that.
Maybe it’s because of the world we live in today, where people are so detached from everything around them that they take for granted how lucky they are to be living.
Later that day I went to the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
Rounding the corner, I stood in front of the Memorial and looked out upon all 9,387 marble crosses, each standing at attention, completely uniform.
Each cross has a story to tell, a story of life and of death.’
Sources: Excerpts of the newsletter issued by the Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence (MEUCE)- March-April 2014.
To read the full MEUCE ’s newsletter,click here.