Belleau Wood, France --
Rows of white headstones stretch accross the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, curving and winding throughout the 42-acre plot. Each gravestone is marked with the name of a fallen.service member who perished near these hallow grounds some 90 years ago.
It was here, in the fields and forests of Belleau, France, that 2,289 U.S. service members gave their lives during World War I. Today, these gravestones are the remaining image of the battle that raged here decades ago.
In honor of the 92nd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood, approximately 2,500 American and French service members, their families, tourists and locals attended a ceremony honoring the sacrifices of each other’s countryman.
Honorary guests for the event included Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps, the Honorable Charles H. Rivkin, U.S. ambassador to France, and French military and political leaders.
Marines with the United States Marine Battle Color Detachment alongside Marines from the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments and Marines with the 2nd Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company from Rota, Spain, provided support for the ceremony. The ceremony marked the first time the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments had returned to France since 1918.
During his memorial address, Gen. Conway talked about the sacrifices made by Marines at Belleau Wood and the importance that the battle had on not only the history of our Corps, but also our nation.
The ceremony also featured remarks by French dignitaries including Mrs. Monique Benier, the mayor of Belleau.
“This site is a symbol of sacrifice,” Benier said. “Each cross in this cemetery represents the pursuit of liberty and freedom. We must always remember to honor these men who fought bravely here at Belleau.”
After the remarks, representatives the U.S. and France placed wreaths in memory of all those who lost their lives during the battle. The ceremony ended with performances by the French Army Band, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, and the United States Marine Silent Drill Platoon.
Following the performances, members of the ceremony escorted the honorary guests downhill in Belleau to the famous Bulldog fountain, were its customary for Marines to take a drink of water. The day ended with the American and French military enjoying food and laughs.
“Being able to experience Belleau Wood is unbelievable,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew Stevens, an infantryman with the 5th Marine Regiment. “There is so much history of our Corps herein France. It is great to be able to see it firsthand.”