Picauville Residents Honor Fallen D-Day Troops
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
PICAUVILLE, France, June 5, 2014 The determination of this community to honor the memory of the American pilots and soldiers who fought for their liberty during D-Day is evident, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe said here today.
Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, during an event honoring the 70th anniversary of D-Day operations in Picauville, France, June 5, 2014. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, also commander of U.S. European Command, spoke to veterans, family members, local citizens and members of the Association Picauville Remembers.
Breedlove paid his respects during the unveiling of a new addition to a monument honoring C-47 Skytrain military transport crews and paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions who lost their lives in the area during D-Day operations 70 years.
“I’m proud to be here with you today as we dedicate the new section of this monument to the memory of those from Picauville,” he said.
Before the ceremony, the general said he had the honor of meeting Bruce Anne (Brucie) Parcell Shook, daughter of Lt. Col. Bruce Parcell, who was “one of the many men we lost during the Battle of Normandy.”
“Named after her father, little Brucie was born a month after her father’s death,” Breedlove said. “She was not even a year old when her father’s posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross was pinned to her gown.”
The general noted how she grew up never knowing her father, whose name was emblazoned alongside those who served with him on the new plaque honoring their “bravery and heroic actions.”
It is impossible, Breedlove said, to understand the personal price she has paid over her lifetime for the freedom her father sacrificed for.
Breedlove also recalled meeting John Bessems, a man from the Netherlands who grew up near several World War II battlefields and “always been interested in this war.”
“In 2005, he visited the D-Day battlegrounds and the beaches for the first time,” the general said. “There he learned about adopting the graves of U.S. soldiers who were killed during World War II. He has adopted three soldiers.”
After listing the three soldiers, Breedlove said Bessems routinely corresponds with the soldiers’ family members, puts flowers and flags on their graves at Christmas, Easter, their birthdays and the dates of their death.
“He looks after the graves of his soldiers because their families cannot,” he said.
Breedlove added, “It was amazing for me to learn that the American Cemetery in Margraten is the only cemetery in the world where every one of the 8,301 graves has been adopted.”
There’s a waiting list for further adoptions, he said, noting U.S. troops who never came home from the war are being looked after by the French, Dutch, Belgian and German citizens.
“The determination of this community to retain the memory of the American pilots and soldiers who fought for their liberty is evident in the face of every person I have met from Picauville,” he said.
“You are the children of liberty,” Breedlove added, “and your commitment to honoring your liberators is beautifully embodied in this monument today.”
The general said he was “most impressed” by the inclusion of children into the ceremony.
“It’s evident that you are passing on the responsibility to remember and respect the actions of brave young men and women who contributed to the success of the greatest endeavor ever undertaken in the name of liberty,” Breedlove said.
From the blood spilled on this ground, he said, a proud legacy has grown as those that fought “saved our way of life.”
The most amazing outcome of the post-World War II era, Breedlove said, has been the proud confederation that is today’s NATO alliance.
“Enemies on the battlefield 70 years ago are now staunch allies, and the bond across the Atlantic Ocean, born here in the Normandy region, is stronger than it has ever been,” he said.
“Through a promise of collective defense we have earned seven decades of peace, security and prosperity,” Breedlove added.
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)