SEE IT: How The French Care For American Graves At Normandy
A picture taken at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, northwestern France, on June 6, 2019, shows French and US flags ahead of French-US ceremony as part of D-Day commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP) (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images)
DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images

Every year, French caretakers spend hours preparing the grave markers at the American cemetery in Normandy — nearly 10,000 of them.

In the United States, citizens spend Memorial Day remembering and honoring the service members who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms and liberties the rest of us enjoy – but for those who never made it home, some of the host nations do what they can to honor the Americans who fell defending them.

In Normandy, for example, some citizens routinely bring sand from D-Day’s most brutal landing site — Omaha Beach — and use it to darken the names and dates inscribed in the otherwise plain white marble crosses that cover the landscape.

The tradition was begun by French soldiers and has been carried through the years by locals and visiting family members, who often do the sand-scrubbing just before the anniversary of the D-Day invasion – but for Memorial Day, each grave is marked with both an American flag and a French flag. The land where those soldiers were buried may be located in France, but it is considered American soil.

Other American cemeteries across Europe do the same, among them the Henri-Chapelle American Military Cemetery in Plombieres, Belgium. Memorial Day has been observed at that cemetery – where both American and Belgian flags adorn each marker — since 1945, when both Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley were in attendance.

American flags and the flag of the Netherlands mark each grave at the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten.

The Italian flag sits alongside the American flag at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno.

The Tunisian flag flies next to the American flag at the North Africa American Cemetery in Tunisia.

At the American Cemetery in Manila, Filipino flags fly alongside the Stars and Stripes.


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