Driving through the countryside in Normandy, France, I was struck by the American flag’s omnipresence. Whether it be a corner creperie or a rustic homestead, the flag was invariably hung alongside a French flag for passersby to see. I was not sure whether this phenomenon represented an undying appreciation for the Allied liberation of Normandy nearly 75 years ago, or a pandering to the masses of American tourists who visit the city annually. However, an encounter with the mayor of St. Mere Eglise made me confident that gratitude for the Allied sacrifice in Normandy persists deeply among locals to this day.
Winding down the gravel roads, the WWII program bus eventually stopped in front of a tall, aging church. As we exited the bus we were met kindly by the mayor, who through translation welcomed us to the landmark. Inside the church Robert Wright, a 1934 Buckeye graduate had set up an aid station during the war to save both Allied and German troops injured amid the battle of Normandy. As we walked between the pews, blood stains from the conflict 75 years ago remained unfaded. Pictures and excerpts dedicated to Wright’s service scattered the church walls, and a large gravestone dedicated in his name laid in the center of the cemetery outside. We planted a Buckeye flag next to the stone and stood in silence alongside the mayor to pay our respects. Afterward the mayor thanked us for visiting the site, stressing the importance of such visits to ensure contributions like Wright’s stay in memory. We soon left and waved adieu to our new friend and his family. Thanks to locals grateful for the sacrifices made in Normandy, stories like Wright’s live on, and the tragedies of the war, although devastating, feel less in vain.