Memorial Day Rites Focus on D-Day Bravery

<i> From Associated Press</i>

While thousands jammed beaches across the country, others spent Memorial Day remembering another beach--Normandy--and paying tribute to those who fought and died there a half-century ago.

With the 50th anniversary of D-day only days away, the invasion that was a turning point of World War II was a recurring topic of Memorial Day speeches, ceremonies and prayers.

Abroad, in St. James, France, Fabien Meron stood amid a sea of white crosses at the U.S. military cemetery, joining thousands of children as they released pigeons carrying messages back to Britain.

The 4,410 children, one at each grave, were there to pay homage to American soldiers killed in France after the invasion. Fabien, 9, stood at the grave of Pvt. Arthur Dodler of Illinois, a 35th Division infantryman killed Aug. 17, 1944.


“My message said that the word peace means no war, and I hope the whole world knows it,” said Fabien, from Pontorson, near the cemetery 200 miles west of Paris.

In Pawtucket, R.I., Joseph Rossi said: “When you think about what they did, flinging themselves out of boats and running into the enemy, it’s really something. I think a lot of us take for granted what our fathers, grandfathers did. It’s very humbling.”

Rossi, 35, one of about 500 people gathered at Rhode Island Veteran’s Cemetery, said he did not know anyone buried there but had been touched by film footage of D-day that he had recently seen.

Elsewhere around the nation, people flocked to beaches and back yard barbecues to celebrate the holiday, but one outing, in Florida, turned tragic.


Three women, a man and an 11-year-old boy drowned at American Beach on Florida’s northeast coast when one swimmer got in trouble in dangerous riptides and the others tried to help him, authorities said. Six other people caught in riptides in the area were hospitalized.

About 3,000 people attended the dedication of the Bristol War Memorial in Virginia. In Atlanta, a plaque was erected honoring Charles Brittian Jr., who was killed in Vietnam just days before he was scheduled to return home.