Each student had prepared a few words to be read in front of a soldier's grave or name on the Wall of the Missings.
On Mrs. Glennie Sims' initiative four members shared their experiences during the four years of the Occupation and on the Liberation with these Cadets.
D-Day Future American soldiers visiting Normandy
underneath the photo : Meeting between American students, future military elite, and the association Les Fleurs de la Mémoire.
The week that is coming to an end marks the completion of an important work on remembrance for a future American soldiers class. Students at West Point, a prestigious military academy in New-York, they came to honor their forebears who landed here on June 1944 and to understand the Battle of Normandy.
Concurrently with their numerous visits in Norman land, the students also met with the association Les Fleurs de la Mémoire, whose president is Georges Pierre Joret. « This is a Norman association operating globally to the Duty of Remembrance » he explains, pleased with welcoming the fifteen or so future American soldiers.
The meeting took place at the hotel Le Bayeux in all simplicity yet with a tangible emotion. The students had the opportunity to exchange with people who lived through this period in History. People of Normandy who lived the Allied Landing a bit less than 73 years ago.
Significance of Remembrance
For these military students coming from across the Atlantic, the Battle of Normandy study started « several months ago already » reveals Major Eric Smith who accompany them. « Each student works on a section of the battle », that way all together, « they discover the whole battle. We come on every spring, with different students, it's important to come see on site and discover, understand as well. »
Besides, the group did not come alone on the footsteps of the Normandy sympol of Liberty. They were accompanied by the association Normandy Remembers, represented by Glennie Sims, evidently very moved by the importance given to remembrance in our daily lives. « Here, people remember and this touches me, this is important, very important to us », she adds, not without emotion.
Frank lived in Gainesville, Florida, where he passed away on July, 4.
He is survived by Mary, his wife of 73 years. They had 4 chlidren, Frank, Jane, Anne and Kathy ; four grandchildren then five great-grandchildren would come make their live more beautiful.
Frank was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 13, 1917 where he lived for ten years. Then he lived in Vermont, in Saint- Johnsbury where he graduated from the Academy. He then became a mediator for the Commercial Credit Corp.
Later, he joined the Vermont National Guard. Trained at CAMP BLANDING, Florida, near Starke. This is where he met Mary Olive Thomas whom he married on March 1, 1943 in Macon, Georgia.
While promoted as an officer in the US Army, he was assigned to the 30th Infantry Division which was just designated to be a part of the WWII fighting. From then on, he became and remained a liaison officer all through the duration of the fighting which explains why he knew the Norman woody countryside small roads he often drove in jeep.
If we chose to gather this morning to pay homage to him, that is first because it is the first village he liberated. He took part in Operation COBRA which, after Saint-Lô was liberated, enabled the US troops to break through Normandy towards Brittany, then in the hard fighting in Mortain. His combat led him to Domfront, Evreux, in the Bulge, then in Belgium, he took part in the liberation of Maastricht and finally in Germany until the end of the War.
During this period of time, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds fighting the enemy and the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for valor.
He retired from the Army as a major.
He was later awarded :
The French Croix de Guerre
The Belgian fourragère
The Dutch Queen's Medal which makes him a member of the Orange-Nassau royal family
The Memorial Cross of Holland
The French Légion d'Honneur he was awarded in Mortain in June 2009
After the war, Frank came back in Europe with his wife, within the framework of American occupation in Germany, this is, by the way, where three of his children were born. When he returned to the USA, he settled down in Brooker, Florida, close to Mary's parents' farm where the fourth child was born : Kathy. He would stay here until the end of his life on July 4.
He first ran a small grocery for 12 years then had some experiences as a deputy manager at the Alachua County school and later at the University of Florida from where he retired in 1979.
Yet retired, he remained active, he decided he would dedicate his live to the leitmotif LEST WE FORGET and committed to sharing the Memory of the 30th Infantry Division being unwilling the ones who gave their all to be forgotten
He became the National Chairman of the 30th Infantry Division from WWII Association, then the experienced historian of the latter.
He took part in the creation and operation of a WWII museum in Camp Blanding.
But I would like to go back to what reunites us this morning and bring some facts back to your mind.
Frank Towers, with two veterans, comes in Normandy so as to prepare a trip for 30th US Infantry Division veterans upon the 40th anniversary of D-Day which is due the next year.
He goes to the Town Hall in St-Jean-de-Daye whichis the first town liberated by the 30th US Infantry Division. The mayor then calls Marie-Thérèse Lavieille in as an interpreter during this interview.
That evening, the Lavieilles invited the the Americans at their place to talk about their trip.
The friendship between the Lavieille and Towers families was born. It would only grow along the years.
In September 1984, he Americans travel to Normandy. It's a success : seven buses, more than 300 persons, some veterans and their families are welcomed in St-Jean-de-Daye.
This would be reproduced in 1989 and 1994, leading to strong and warm bonds between the veterans and St-Jean-de-Daye inhabitants.
Then, no more package tours would be organized due to the veterans age, however, Frank Towers still comes, at least every two years. He wants to visit his comrades' graves in Colleville and St James. Every time, he stays at the Lavieilles with those who accompany him - either brothers in arms or familiy members – and the bonds tighten.
In September 2000, pardon me Marie-Thérèse for this public indiscretion, the Lavieilles spent a few days at the Towers, in Florida. When the time to leave comes, Frank said : «I'm getting old now and soon I will no longer be able to visit the graves of my brothers in arms resting in Normandy. In the Netherlands, the graves are laid flowers on by individuals. Claude, couldn't you get something done in Normandy?»
The idea will grow. As soon he got back home, he contacts his friends and several officials. He gets a very positive response, even enthusiastic.
In December 2000, Claude organizes a first meeting in St Lô. There are several volunteers, the board of directors is rapidly created and Claude suggests a name for the new association « Les Fleurs de la Mémoire » are created. Registered office at the Departemental Council in Saint Lô, administrative office in St-Jean-de-Daye. The association appeared in the official journal on Januart 27, 2001.
The association determines one first challenge : 500 graves adopted in 2001. More than 2,000 will be adopted!
We all know that, Claude, the founder, would leave in October 2005.
Frank would keep on coming regularly in Normandy to reflect. A ritual : a symbolic gesture to take some sand in his hand, on the beach in Vierville, where he landed and where so many of his comrades died. So many images, so much odor, so much sufferings must have suddenly reappeared in his mind !
While he visited, he did not content himself with going to places of Remembrance, he wanted these crosses and Stars of David in the two cemeteries in Normandy to be , as Albert Scweitzer said, some real Peace preacher.
He, with the association, was able, many times, to visit some schools, junior highs, to meet young people. HE led them, according to how old they were, to think about the meaning and fragility of the words PEACE and LIBERTY. Sow so that the desire to act for nothing like it happen again germinates in the minds of our youth. In this way, in front of hundreds of children with simplicity, huimility and conviction he testified of the necessity to make sure we maintain the vital vigilance for this PEACE and LIBERTY that we enjoy today in Europe thanks to men like him.
Words like these of Winston Churchill :
«Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it»
Or these of Paul VI :
« The sleep of death of so many victims be a warning for next generations so that they remember such horrors must never happen again. »
Yes, such words have been his leitmotif, enriching at the mercy of questions, the thought of those who, in the USA, in France, in Belgium, in the Netherlands were fortunate to hear him.
In the minds of these people and many more, Frank, as a real Peace ambassador, sowed, I'm sure of it, in young minds for today, more than yesterday but less than tomorrow spring and reverberate some Peace momentum.
Having accompany him, a sentence from Pierre Flourens, a member of the French Academy in the 19th century, comes to my mind. It summarizes pretty well, if not perfectly the message he wanted to deliver :
« Man need to know, what needs to be said to him, it is that he has a free strength ; that this strenght must not diminish ; and the individual whom it diminishes in, whatever the philosophy he takes shelter under, is an individual who deteriorate. »
Isn't it still necessary, today, to carry on with Frank's work ? He who, as a tireless ambassador of Peace and Fraternity between people ended each visits this way :
« Plus jamais ça ! »
« Lest we forget »
This morning we will all leave armed with your message and the duty that is ours.
Mrs Mayor will light the torch from which a flame will spring, that of Frank and all his brothers in arms who came from the USA on a morning of June 1944 bring the light of hope in a redioscovered peace.
Today, in this world where peace remains so fragile, Frank asked us to watch, relay their sacrifice, their memory.
«Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it» Sir Winston Churchill.
Then, so as not to forget, let us remember and be messengers and agent of Peace.
After the national Anthems, some children, will get closer, lay their flowers and light their candle, they will come bring this fire to you, as a symbol of the transmission of Memory and of our willingness to be, like Frank, some Peace builders.
Text read by two young people who kew Frank at the Saint-Jean-de-Daye junior high, Donovan and Angèle.
They read text from the collection published in 2014 written by Spanish students in a class of high school diploma.
On September 12, Marie-T Lavieille sent an email to Mary Towers, telling her in detail about the ceremony held on September 11 in St Jean de Daye (with pictures), paying homage to her husband, Frank Towers.
Mary answered immediately. This is an excerpt of this email :
THANK YOU, thank you !
Knowing you were having the program in Frank's memory yesterday, you were in my thoughts and prayers also.
It is overhelming - so many people, such beautiful flowers, such a beautiful Memorial. Thank you with all my heart.
You know how much Frank loved to see you, your family and the other people in Normandy. Thank them for me. It was so beautiful