CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER LIDOWSKI
Since moving to Germany, I’ve found it easy to overlook some American holidays and traditions. Long holiday weekends with days off from school and work allow for trips that can’t easily be taken during short weekends. I want to be careful, though, that I don’t forget to honor some of the most important days that Americans hold dear. During one such day, I found a way to appreciate an American holiday in a European setting.
Many Americans who live in Germany are here because of a connection to the United States military. We get to serve our country while enjoying a few years in Europe. However, there are some service members who never made it home. Many of those now rest in overseas American cemeteries. One of those cemeteries is the Lorraine American Cemetery in France. Visiting Lorraine during holidays like Memorial Day or Veterans Day provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the American spirit while living far away from home.
The Lorraine American Cemetery is located about twenty eight miles from Metz, France, which was highly fortified against Allied troops during World War II. The cemetery’s location recognizes the extraordinary efforts by the U.S. Third Army and the U.S. Seventh Army in the region during the fall and winter of 1944 to break the Siegfried Line. The Third and Seventh Armies were eventually able to break the line, and they crossed the Rhine River in March 1945, which marked a major accomplishment in the war.
Displays in the cemetery’s memorial building explain the campaign in detail. Most of the people buried at Lorraine American Cemetery lost their lives during the advancement across the Rhine and into Germany during 1944-1945. A temporary cemetery was established in the site in March 1945, and the Lorraine American Cemetery was officially dedicated in 1960.
The memorial building at the entrance to the cemetery includes a statue of St. Avold, a Roman Christian solider, who extends a blessing across the cemetery’s 113 acres and all who rest there. St. Avold overlooks figures of Kind David, Emperor Constantine, King Arthur, George Washington, and a young man. Together, the five statues represent “the eternal struggle for freedom.”
Outside the memorial building, visitors come upon rows and rows of white marble headstones. In all, 10,489 people rest in the cemetery. Another 444 are remembered on the Wall of the Missing.
The Lorraine American Cemetery is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The commission oversees the physical management and preservation of the monuments while also assisting family and friends with locating loved ones buried in locations such as Lorraine. Commission employees can help family arrange visits in order to see the final resting place of someone buried in Lorraine or another site. If a visit can’t be made, staff at the cemetery can take photographs of burial sites to send to surviving family members and help place floral arrangements on graves.
During my visit, I was pleased to see several wreaths and flower arrangements displayed in honor of the people who rest at Lorraine American Cemetery. I was even more pleased to see the many Americans living overseas who took the time to visit the cemetery and honor those who didn’t get to return home.
It was a day spent remembering what it means to be an American even when America is so far away. On holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, special services are often held at the cemetery. Information about upcoming services and events can be found at the American Battle Monuments Commission website.
The Lorraine American Cemetery is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM except on December 25 and January 1. During opening hours, a staff member is on duty to help visitors navigate the cemetery and locate specific graves. The cemetery is located at Avenue de Fayetteville, 57500 St. Avold, France, which can be reached in less than an hour and a half from the Kaiserslautern area by car. For more information, you can call +33 (0)3 87 92 07 32 or visit www.abmc.gov. The American Battle Monuments Commission Headquarters is located at 2300 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22201 and can be reached by phone at 703-696-6900.
Tips For Your Trip:
Phone: +33 (0)3 87 92 07 32
Daily: 0900 – 1700
Closed December 25 and January 1.
Avenue de Fayetteville
57500 St. Avold, France
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