D-day and photos of France brought memories of when Wil and I visited our daughter Sonya, and her daughter Miss Erin, while they lived in Belgium. Wil and I took day trips while Sonya worked at the American School in Mons.
One of the trips was to Flanders Fields, (I wrote about that in the book) which was an American Cemetery, in Belgium where many soldiers were interred after a horrific WWI battle near Flanders. Some of the other places of note on day trips was to Brugges, Ghent and the city of Metz.
I was in the 95th Division (Training) while were visiting Europe. Metz, France was an area of the war during the Battle of the Bulge that gave the nick-name of “Iron Men of Metz” to my division. Given by the Germans for the division’s fierce fighting in defense of the city of Metz. Iron Men of Metz was a part of my military DNA.
We went to Metz, about a 3-hour drive from Mons. Taking back roads to see the French countryside we needed directions after a couple of hours. I pulled into what we would call a “gas station” but they called something else. Inside the office of this fuel stop was an old fellow who knew very little English. After explaining where we needed to go to get to Metz, he asked if I was an American? When I said Oui, he started digging into a very old desk. After rummaging for 2 or 3 minutes he pulled out a WWII vintage 95th Division Army patch. I was wowed. I pulled from my pocket a 1991 version of the same patch and explained how I was in the Division.
He understood immediately what I was saying. He said over and over, “Iron Men, Iron Men” and was shaking my hand and hugging me. It was really quite emotional for him as well as me.
I changed my perception of what the French people think of America and Americans, at least the older generation. I’m not sure what the current Frenchman thinks of us.