As the U.S. Marines marched off the field Sunday, the French who had gathered at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery for the Memorial Day ceremony broke out in applause.
The clapping continued as they marched along the straight lane that leads to the cemetery gates.
The ceremony, observed by a standing-room-only crowd, took place on a grassy knoll beneath the chapel, flanked by the cemetery’s 2,289 graves.
The event also marked the centennial of the Battle of Belleau Wood, where Marines and Army troops fought a bloody battle against German forces during World War I.
Now, 100 years later, former foes have become allies, something that was stressed by the ceremony’s three main speakers, French Maj. Gen. Vincent Guionie, German army Lt. Gen. Carsten Jacobsen and Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller.
The ceremony also featured military bands from all three countries and poetry readings by students from a local high school.
The generals and other dignitaries laid wreaths at the steps of the chapel and the 6th Marine firing detail fired a salute before a bugler, dressed in a World War I-era uniform, played taps.
Following the ceremony, led by a Marine band playing the “Marines’ Hymn,” Marines and locals walked down to the Belleau Chateau for a reception.
Once there the Marines had a drink of water from the Bulldog fountain, a ritual for all Marines who visit what was once the Belleau battlefield.
© 2018 the Stars and Stripes
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.