Adoption of American military graves in Europe common practice

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The idea of caring for American graves began not long after the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944. One of the first French citizens to tend the grave of a fallen American soldier was Simone Renaud, of St. Mere Eglise, France. This photo, taken by Life Magazine photographer Ralph Morse, shows Mme. Renaud placing flowers on the grave of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. at the American military cemetery in Normandy.

By ALEX McRAE alex@newnan.com When Netherlands resident Marco Weijers adopted the grave of Newnan's Albert Partridge, he became one of 8,301 local residents who adopted the grave of an American soldier at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands. According to Newnan resident and World War II veteran Gene Cook, adoption of American military graves is now a fairly common practice at the American military cemeteries scattered across the European continent.
Cook says the idea of caring for American graves began not long after the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944. One of the first French citizens to tend the grave of a fallen American soldier was Simone Renaud, whose husband was mayor of St. Mere Eglise, France, which was the first town liberated by Allied forces when American paratroopers landed there before dawn on June 6, 1944, and suffered heavy losses before claiming victory. Mme. Renaud became famous when Life Magazine photographer Ralph Morse photographed her at the newly-opened military cemetery in Normandy placing flowers on the grave of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. just weeks after the Normandy invasion. After the article appeared in Life, Mme. Renaud was swamped with requests from American families asking her to tend the graves of their lost loved ones. She did all she could personally and organized countless others to follow her lead. That tradition endures today. Cook says because of Mme. Renaud's efforts in tending the graves of fallen Americans, she became known as the Mother of Normandie, which is home to the largest and most heavily-visited American military cemetery in Europe. Mme. Renaud's son, Henri-Jean is Cook's best friend in Normandie and the two correspond regularly, Cook said. A documentary film was released last year about Mme. Renaud and her lifelong mission to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to liberate Europe from German oppression.


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