France Commemorates June 18th Appeal
French Embassy, June 18 2012.
Under a gray sky and drizzling rain on Monday, the Embassy of France commemorated the anniversary of the June 18th Appeal and decorated 9 U.S. military personnel with a handful of high honors. The anniversary, which marks the day in 1940 when General Charles De Gaulle broadcast a now-famous address to French resistance fighters and citizens, figures among the early moments of a four-year struggle to undermine France’s occupation by German forces.
- Gen. de Gaulle delivering his Appeal of June 18th (1940).
The decoration comes at a poignant season of historical anniversaries between France and the United States. Twelve days prior, newly elected President François Hollande paid an official visit to the D-Day Memorial at Caen, France, a few miles from the beaches of the Normandy coast. The area witnessed a military operation of history-making proportions when, on June 6, 1944, Allied forces successfully invaded France, pushing back its German occupiers. The offensive, called "D-Day," provided a decisive turn in France’s liberation and would hasten the end of World War II.
- Ten French and American military personnel, right, stand at attention to receive their medals.
The decoration ceremony honored men from the U.S. Army who distinguished themselves during their work on operations in Afghanistan which involve French troops as a part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the representation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) currently active in the country. Many of those decorated shared sincere remarks about their time among French military. Lt. Col. Anthony De Martino, awarded the National Order of Merit for his work at ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, described how the French troops’ "professionalism" and "spirit" made a strong impression on him. He added that the French distinguished themselves as particularly effective in the field of counterinsurgency.
- Lt Colonel Anthony De Martino and Staff Sergeant Robert Cox.
"They [the French] are a great member of the Alliance, and I mean in ISAF, NATO, everything," he said.
In the same vein, Col. Sean Scott, who also received the National Order of Merit, felt "humbled and pleased" about the recognition. Col. Scott has worked with French personnel on and off since 1996, when he was posted in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, within NATO command following the ethnic violence in the Balkans during the 1990s.
Staff Sgt. Robert Cox, who received the Bronze Medal of National Defense, expressed his "tremendous honor" in receiving the award. Frédéric Doré, Deputy Chief of Mission at the French embassy, presided over the award ceremony. In a brief speech before the decorations, he called the service of those present a "testimony of the friendship... which links our two countries."