Report from Tim Stoy on the commemorations in France:
OP International had a great day today! This morning we dedicated a commemorative plaque honoring Audie Murphy at the location of his Distinguished Service Cross action at Les Bouis in Ramatuelle. The ceremony was hosted by Mayor Roland Bruno of Ramatuelle, and the plaque was sponsored by Mr. Patrice de Colmont, proprietor of the Les Bouis estate and owner of Club 55 on Pampelonne Beach – the beach where the 15th Infantry landed at 0800 on 15 August 1944.Mayor Bruno, Mr. de Colmont, and Monika Stoy all delivered comments in honor of the occasion.
Mr. Mike Halik, 15th Infantry Regiment veteran who was wounded on 15 August 1944 was there for the ceremony, along with his daughter Debbie and son Keith. This trip is his first time back to Southern France since August 1944!
Also present was Mr. Robert Jackson, 94, a veteran of Operation Dragoon who landed at Ste Maxime with the 45th Infantry Division, along with his daughter Wendy and son in law .
The Mayor of Salzburg, Austria, Dr. Heinz Schaden, accompanied by Mrs Schaden, traveled over 1000 km to be present for the ceremony! The Marne Division started its European campaign on the coast of France, and ended it in May 1945 in Salzburg! Audie Murphy received his Medal of Honor in a ceremony held in Salzburg on 2 June 1945.
3 soldiers from the 18th Military Police Brigade in Grafenwoehr traveled to Provence to support the ceremony and provided a color guard of US colors and the Army flag – SSG Mathis, SPC Schmidt, and PFC McKinney. They did an outstanding job with the colors on a very windy day.
Mr. Marc Tastenoy and Mr. Julian Auvertin were dressed in accurate period uniforms and represented the soldiers of yesterday well, and Julian carried the Outpost flag in the ceremony.
It was a wonderful ceremony, with local French veterans present as well as representatives from patriotic organizations.
The Yellow Ribbon fife and drum corps provided excellent musical support.
After the ceremony Tim Stoy led the group over the terrain of Audie Murphy’s DSC fight. The terrain is much more challenging than depicted in To Hell and Back! This particular battlefield is now an organic farm where Mr. de Colmont produces excellent vegetables and delicious grapes.
Before heading to Club 55 for a delicious lunch hosted by Mr. de Colmont, the group drove to La Croix-Valmer to visit the 3rd Infantry Division’s beach head monument there. This was especially meaningful to Mike Halik who had never seen it before, and to the three active duty soldiers, who were deeply impressed at the historical significance of all that was happening today.
We were served a wonderful meal at Club 55, the most famous club in the Mediterranean area and possibly the world. Words cannot describe the quantities and wonderful flavors of the food served, and Patrice was a wonderful host. We presented him certificates of appreciation from OP International and the 15th Infantry Regiment Association, a Can Do blazer badge, a Can Do coffee mug, and numerous other 15th Infantry and 3rd ID items. Patrice presented us with nice Club 55 gifts, but most importantly with wonderful memories and a pilgrimage site to return to with the Audie Murphy plaque!
The day was capped off by a visit to the beach where our men landed on 15 August 1944. Walking from Club 55 straight on to the beach, Mike Halik trod once again the fateful sand where he stepped on a land mine on August 1944. This time there were no mines, just curious onlookers as they watched him doggedly walk through the sand to the waters edge. There were tears in many eyes as we watched him and saw the fierce determination in his eyes.
What a great Marne and Can Do day!