MRFF Advisory Board Member John M. Compere’s (Judge and Brigadier General, US Army, Retired) – “Memorial Day & France’s Normandy Beaches”


Memorial Day is a national patriotic holiday honoring the memory of those brave men and women who gave their lives in the military service of our country to preserve the freedom we enjoy today.

Beginning with 8 citizen-soldiers who fell near Lexington, Virginia at the start of the American Revolution, more than 1,354,664 Americans have died serving our country and over 40,917 are missing in action. This ultimate sacrifice is still being made by courageous military men and women in the prolonged War on Terrorism. There will be more as long as we homo sapiens remain a warring species.

Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday of May (May 29 this year) to memorialize those who died in the military service of our country. The weekend traditionally starts the summer vacation season. Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans Day (every November 11) that recognizes those who served in the military of our country.

A wreath is ceremonially placed at Arlington National Cemetery’s Unknown Soldier Tomb by the President. The National Memorial Day Concert is held on the Capitol lawn. Patriotic parades and ceremonies occur throughout the country. The National Moment of Remembrance Act passed by Congress requests that we pause at 3 pm to remember our fallen heroes.

The American flag is customarily raised to the top of the staff in the morning and lowered to half-staff until noon when it is returned to full staff for the rest of the day. Lowering to half-staff represents remembrance of those fallen. Return to full staff symbolizes their memory being raised by the living who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up for them and fight for liberty and justice.

There is no greater example of military lives sacrificed for the cause of  freedom than the massive Allied air, sea and land operation across the English Channel to the Normandy Beaches of France on June 6, 1944 during World War II to liberate Europe and defeat Hitler and the Nazis (known as D-Day). Before dawn, extensive aerial and naval bombardment began and three airborne divisions landed by parachute and glider inland behind the beaches. At daybreak, six divisions landed on the beaches in the largest amphibious assault in history. American forces landed on Omaha and Utah Beaches where the fiercest fighting and highest casualties took place because of German defensive emplacements of artillery, machine guns and snipers on the high cliffs with mines, stakes and barbed wire on the beaches. 29,000 Americans were killed (more than United Kingdom, Canada & France combined) and 1,557 remain missing in action (many lost to the sea).

My wife and I have had the privilege of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery & Memorial, Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum, Omaha & Utah Beaches and mountain ridges on France’s Normandy Coast. The American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach contains 9,387 graves with headstones. Families of those slain determined if their loved ones were buried there or returned home for burial. As we walked along the beach and looked up at the formidable bluffs, the stark realization of the difficulty, boldness and courage of the costly Allied surprise coastal invasion was apparent and unforgettable. We will always cherish the memories and mementos from this special visit.

For those too young to remember or not familiar with this historic military operation that turned the tide of battle for Allied victory in Europe during World War II, two excellent movies are recommended: “The Longest Day” (1962) & “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

While in Paris, we took the opportunity to pay our respects to a distant Compere ancestor who gave his life in the service of his country. The Arch de Triomphe, a magnificent monument at the end of the world famous Champ-Elysees avenue, was erected during the early 19th Century by French Emperor Napoleon to commemorate his greatest victories and heroic commanding generals. A General Compere is inscribed among those killed in battle.

On this Memorial Day, wherever you may be, please take a moment to reverently remember with patriotic pride and gratitude all of our military men and women who sacrificed their precious lives for our blessed liberties.

“So long my comrades

Sleep ye where you fell upon the field.

But tread softly please.

March o’er my heart with ease

March on and on

But to God alone we kneel.

Alone and forever more from earthly care

The noble ruins of men lie buried here.

You strong men, good men

Endowed with youth and much the will to live.

I hear no protests from the mute lips of the dead.

They rest; there is no more to give.”

– AUDIE MURPHEY  (1924-1971, Texan, most decorated World War II soldier & western movie actor).


John Compere

Retired Army airborne officer, disabled American veteran (Vietnam) & area rancher


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  1. G

    Sorry, but when you look at the US military, they have not been protecting our freedom. They have been used to back Corporate America interests as USMC General Butler stated in his book War is a Racket both at home and aboard. They also spied on law-abiding American citizens from the 1920s to even today. They even treated the American citizens with disdain:

    Finally, they have no respect for civilian control over the military unless the president of the USA is a Republican.

  2. Connie

    G, the soldiers who are buried in the cemeteries had no say in policy. Theirs was not to question why, theirs was to do or die.

    On Memorial Day (the 30th) I honored the valiant dead. My late husband, a warrior to the end deserved better than he received.

  3. G

    Sorry, Connie but I have to disagree with you regarding not to question why, and to do or die. Look what happen to Germany in the 20th century and look what it is costing America from 1965 to today? Furthermore, many politicians of both those countries were once soldiers or were still in the military reserves and still did not learn about the cost of war.

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