VMF September 2022 Spotlight

SPOTLIGHT

scroll_Constitution.jpgDid the only wise US citizens live during the 18th century?

by Robert Scott

The US Constitution is a brilliant document, and one would think that it was meant as a guide to point future citizens in the right direction. One would also think that it was not meant as an end-all for providing guidance for governing the United States forever. The authors of the Constitution had no way of knowing that there would be a digital age where smart phones are ubiquitous. The Framers of the Constitution had no way of knowing that there would be nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons capable of destroying the entire world’s population. From the single shot muskets of their day, there was no way that they could have known that there would be a killing weapon such as the AR 15. As times change, I can imagine the Framers believed that their original document would be modified to fit the conditions of future times. Those who view the Constitution as having been chiseled in stone, with no possibility of change, and of things not mentioned in the original document never to be considered for inclusion, are perhaps being mentally myopic. The men who wrote the Constitution, while being extraordinarily brilliant and wise, had no way of seeing the future for all times. With the many things that are happening in the US at present, it would be prudent for leaders to come to grips with the fact that some of the nation's most sacred documents must also change with time.

If the country is to change with the times, one of the first places where lawmakers should look is at the intent of the Second Amendment. The country has moved from a place where farmers were expected to put down their farm tools and pick up weapons to form a militia to fight if necessary. Back then there was no standing army, or National Guard. The fighting weapon of the day was a musket, not an AR 15 type weapon. The amount of destruction that is done by an AR15 type weapon has been witnessed by few civilians outside of war zones. This is a weapon of war, not a hunting rifle. Any game killed by this weapon, for the most part, would not be fit for human consumption. Why then should such a weapon be in the public domain? The main and only purpose of this weapon is for killing other humans, or possibly some very dangerous animals in the wild. It does not belong on the streets of our cities. The police certainly do not want to go up against them - ask the nearly 400 law enforcement officials on the scene at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

The carnage must stop! If we are a sane, rational, and civilized society, then we must put an end to civilians owning weapons of war. I am one who believes that there are still some wise and brilliant citizens living in the US in 2022! I also believe that some of them are lawmakers! This is not only about the Second Amendment, it is also about saving the lives of young children who are in school to learn about the US Constitution, and all of its amendments!



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VMF August 2022 Spotlight

SPOTLIGHT

Honor Flights to the District of Columbia

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Photo: Evan Youngblood

On June 1st, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Honor Flight Network resumed escorts for Honor Flight visits. Park rangers and US Park Police officers will again greet veterans at their selected monument, facilitate parking and traffic flow and provide a ranger-led program about the memorials if requested. 

Alice Kraatz, a Michigan teen, raised more than $140,000 for an Honor Flight  for more than 80 Vietnam veterans in June that included a ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Honor Flights were featured in the VMF V-E Day (May 8, 2021) webinar Volunteers Honoring Veterans in Washington, D.C., with Helen Belletti, Volunteer Coordinator. Honor Flight video 

 

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VMF July 2022 Spotlight

SPOTLIGHT:  MEMORIAL DAY EVENTS 2022

Italy, Netherlands, Luxembourg, UK, France, Belgium


Italy

 

DA Italy members were present at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, on Saturday May 28 to honor the fallen on Memorial Day. Helenka Kinnan, DA Italy Secretary and Vice Chair of the Southern Italy Chapter shared that the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery is a peaceful and moving memorial to our fallen heroes that should not be overlooked if you are visiting the Rome area. It holds a special place in her heart because she is named after the wife of her grandfather’s good friend who is memorialized in the chapel dedicated to the Missing in Action for those lost between Sicily and Nettuno-Anzio (1943-44). The theme of the ceremony was the spirit of friendship and cooperation between the United States and Italy. Ambassador Cindy McCain gave a moving tribute to the close ties between our two nations, exemplified by the Brothers in Arms statue. Click here for information about the American Battle Monuments Commission and a booklet describing the Sicily-Rome campaigns.

Sicily-Rome Burials: 7845    Missing in Action: 3095

Brothers in Arms statue

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June Spotlight

Memorial Day Commemorations Honored the Office 
of Strategic Services in the Tarn, France

In May, French special forces veterans supported by the American community, including Democrats Abroad Toulouse members, organized a special three day commemoration for the 80th anniversary of the founding of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) from which the CIA was created in 1947. Welcome receptions, various lunches with one hosted by the Mayor of Le Vintrou, dinners, and refreshments at the Chateau de Gaix where the OSS team stayed in 1944 rounded out the ambitious schedule.

The extensive commemorative program included tandem parachute jumps in Albi and a parachute drop that featured both American and French paratroopers landing on the actual drop zone where the 15-man OSS team dropped by moonlight in 1944, a wreath-laying ceremony by Democrats Abroad Toulouse at the stele in Le Rialet and at Betges that honored the two OSS men, S/Sgt Bernard Gautier and T/5 Robert Spaur, who died in combat. Official ceremonies included French veterans, local dignitaries, the local community and American relatives of OG PAT members. A new stele honoring Spaur and Gautier was unveiled at the Le Vintrou cemetery.


VMF May 2022 Spotlight

DA-VMF Caucus Member Participates in French National Deportation Remembrance Day

Spot1.pngOn April 21 the DA France-VMF Caucus was invited to participate in France's National Deportation Remembrance Day in Paris. The invitation was in recognition of the Americans who were deported from France, in many cases because of their involvement with the French Resistance during WWII. About 150,000 people were deported from France during WWII. Over 100,000 never came back.

Spot2.pngThe first part of the ceremony took place at the Shoah Memorial, a WWII Holocaust Museum opened in 2005 with survivors’ testimonies in videos, explanatory documents, archives, a teaching center and the marble walls with all the victims’ names inscribed.

After this, an army band led the attendées through the streets of Paris to an emotionally moving ceremony at the Deportation Martyrs Memorialbehind Notre Dame Cathedral, which included poems, speeches including one by a 97-year old deportée who wo
re a jacket from his concentration camp, an army chorale, and the lighting of the flame, all in beautiful pomp and ceremony.

The third ceremony took place at the Arc de Triomphe where the DA France-VMF Caucus was represented by Karen Kenny and Tilly Gaillard, who participated in the wreath-laying ceremony.

For more information and photos, please visit our DA VMF France website by clicking here.

 May 2022 Memorial Day Commemoration Events: Please join us!

  • The DA-Germany VMF Caucus and DA-Luxembourg will lay wreaths at the Luxembourg American Cemetery on May 28th at the Memorial Day Commemoration Event. Send an email here to request details.
  • Spot3.pngDA-France will lay wreaths at the different American cemeteries in France on Sunday, May 29th at the Memorial Day Commemoration ceremonies. This is a tradition that began in 2009 with our Normandy Chapter and then expanded to the other ABMC cemeteries throughout France. It is natural for us to want to honor the service, memory, and sacrifice. Here we are today, carrying on the legacy with Democrats who are laying wreaths, honoring the memory and sacrifice, and showing the rest of the world that DA-France deeply cares, and will never forget. Send an email here to request details.
  • DA-UK will lay wreaths at the Cambridge American Cemetery on Saturday May 28th. Send an email here to request details.

Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act: Last year the DA-Germany VMF Caucus and DA-Luxembourg honored SSgt. George Peddle from the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, aka Ghost Army, buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Efforts have been underway to convince Congress to award a Congressional Gold Medal to SSgt. Peddle and the other soldiers of The Ghost Army. We are happy to announce that the bill finally passed in the Senate and President Biden signed S.1404, the Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act, into law on February 1, 2022. To watch Biden sign the Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act into law, click here and here. Click here for a short video about SSgt. Peddle. For a website dedicated to the Ghost Army, click here. Click here to watch Ghost Army: How American Troops Fooled The Nazis During WWII.


Josephine Baker, American, Inducted Into the Panthéon

by Terese Sarno

We are taking this opportunity to celebrate Josephine Baker, whose remains were symbolically transferred to the Panthéon in Paris on November 30, 2021. Josephine Baker had an incredibly successful life in Paris and the U.S. as a dancer, singer, civil rights activist, spy and pilot! She is the first American-born citizen and the first performer to be immortalized in the mausoleum of France. This is France’s highest honor reserved for heroes of the French Republic.

Josephine left the USA for France in 1925 when she was 19 to pursue her career in Paris. She went to France which did not have segregationist laws like the U.S. (but had a more subtle form of racism) where she could participate in everyday activities without regard to her color. She left New York City, where she had become a popular performer, for Paris where she had a contract to perform with the Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and then joined the revue at the Folies Bergères. 

She was a sensation in France, becoming in the 1930’s the first international black superstar. It has been reported that she was the highest paid and most photographed woman in the world. 

After her marriage to Jean Lion, a Jewish French industrialist in 1937, Josephine became a French citizen. She collaborated with the French Resistance during World War II. Using her fame as a cover for her spying activities, she transported secret information that she gathered by writing it down in invisible ink on her music scores. In 1944, Baker became a second lieutenant and a pilot in a female section in the Air Force of the French Liberation Army of General Charles De Gaulle. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor with the Rosette of the Résistance.

Back in France after the war, she devoted her energies to raising a “rainbow” family of 12 adopted orphans of different nationalities and religions from different countries: Akio (Korean), Janot (Japanese), Jari (Finnish), Luis (Colombian), Marianne and Brahim (North African), Moïse (Jewish French), Jean-Claude and Noël (French), Koffi (Ivory Coast), Mara (Venezuelan), and Stellina (Moroccan).

When she toured in the United States, she refused to perform in segregated venues, so her shows had to have integrated audiences. She was recognized by the NAACP for her opposition to segregation. Josaphine would comment that there is only one race, the human race. In the 1950’s and 60’s she became involved in anti-racist politics. While Baker was a multi-talented performer, excelling in dancing and singing, she also made several successful major motion pictures released in Europe. Toward the end of her life, she ran into financial trouble and lost her properties. She and her children moved to Monaco at the invitation of Princess Grace who gave them a house in Roquebrune-Cap Martin.

On November 30, 2021, she was symbolically buried at the Panthéon where internment is reserved for national heroes, alongside 80 illustrious personalities and the sixth woman in a shrine formerly reserved for men that has the following motto sculpted on the facade: AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE (“To the great men, the grateful homeland.”)

It was a great honor to be invited to attend the formal ceremony at the Panthéon and be part of the homage to a notable American. At the formal state ceremony, ten of Baker’s adopted children were present as well as Prince Albert II of Monaco, whose mother Princess Grace was a lifelong friend of Baker’s. Their friendship began at the Stork Club in NY in 1951 when Baker was subjected to racial discrimination, and Grace Kelly (later Princess Grace of Monaco) and her guests walked out in solidarity with Baker. In 1975 Prince Rainier, Princess Grace, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis organized a retrospective revue at the Bobino in Paris in celebration of Josephine’s 50 year Paris career. Josephine received standing ovations at the sold out performances.

Baker passed away from a stroke on April 12, 1975 several days after  the opening performance. She is the only American-born woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral. During the Panthéon ceremony, the cenotaph, carried by members of the French Air Force, draped in the French flag with Baker’s military medals on top, containing handfuls of soil from her birthplace in Saint Louis, Missouri, from France (Paris and the Château des Milandes in the Dordogne) and from her final resting place in Monaco (where her body remains in the Cimetière de Monaco at the request of her family) made its way up the red carpeted rue Soufflot. The street, from the Luxembourg Gardens to the Panthéon, was adorned with enormous photos of Josephine, and the Song of the Partisans sung by the Army Choir was heard throughout the neighborhood. “Paris I am back”: one of Josephine Baker’s most famous songs launched the start of the ceremony. “I have two loves, my country and Paris”, her most famous song, was played by the Air Force Band when the cenotaph arrived at the Panthéon. 

This extraordinary celebration included a multimedia presentation with projections on the facade of the Panthéon of epic moments in Josephine’s life including images of Dr. Martin Luther King during the 1963 March on Washington at which Baker was the only woman invited to speak on the podium with Dr. King. Her speech focused on 

her struggles and successes battling racism. “You know, friends, that I do not lie to you when I tell you I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad.”

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to this “world-renowned artist, engaged in the Resistance, tireless, anti-racist activist, involved in all the fights that bring together citizens of good will, in France and around the world”. Macron stated that Josephine Baker was entering the Panthéon “because while born American, deep down there was no one more French than you.”

The ceremony ended with everyone singing the Marseillaise.

What can we, as Americans, do to honor Josephine Baker? The first thing would be to posthumously restore her American citizenship. In 1937, after she married a French citizen, Baker lost her American citizenship because the U.S. and French laws at the time did not allow a woman to be a dual national. In an Op Ed in The Hill, on December 1, 2021, William Jordan, a retired Foreign Service Officer, suggested that “Congress consider passing bipartisan legislation posthumously rescinding the cancellation of Baker’s citizenship.” What can you do to help with this? Write to your representatives in Congress and ask them to propose a bill to this effect.

Check these videos of the ceremony and a special Today show

Places to connect with Josephine Baker:

  • Her chateau, known as Les Milandes, in the Dordogne region of France, can be visited.
  • Roquebrune Cap-Martin above Monaco: Princess Grace gave her the Villa Maryanne to live in with her children. There is a statue of Josephine along the Promenade du Cap-Martin at Espace Josephine Baker.

Photo credits: T.M. Sarno