It was some time in the summer of 1944. The World War II allies had landed in Normandy a couple months earlier. Paris had been liberated on August 26, and the whole population of Meaux (a small town east of Paris) was fearful of possible combat activities as the Germans retreated.
Eventually, no fighting took place in Meaux. Long convoys of German troops could be seen retreating in their trucks, armored vehicles and tanks through Nanteuil, a small village a few miles away, their grim faces more expressive of defeat than words could describe. Only the rumble of their tanks filled the silence of the streets.
The following day was one of intense celebration in Meaux. The Germans were gone! People were singing and dancing in the streets. American and French flags flew from every single window in town. Our house sported a huge American flag with a much smaller French flag below.
Today is Veterans’ Day in America. Because of the sacrifices these young GIs made back then, I am today a free man and honored to be a U.S. citizen. I don’t have to speak German in an occupied France. And for that I am grateful.
To any World War II veteran still alive today, I want to say “Thank you”! Because of what you did, whether you were an enlisted man or a draftee, I am today a free man.
I would be honored to shake your hand.