U.S. soldiers who died at French village honored
Place settings for six Americans who died while fighting to liberate a French village during World War II are illuminated by candles Saturday at an event in Hagerstown honoring them. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer)
This past week, they traveled to Somerset, Pa., to see the hometown of Jason Barron.
On Saturday, the French contingent attended a Barron reunion at Dimensions Dining in Hagerstown. Also in attendance was Joan Eymard, her husband, Hilton, and her niece, Linda Bienvenue.
"It's important for us to be here to honor the soldiers' families and, of course, the soldiers," said Valerie Bignon, the daughter-in-law of Roger Bignon, who does not speak English.
"When we organized the ceremony in France, we didn't imagine this incredible story," she said. "We are here meeting with Jason's family and Levy's family in Louisiana. It is so good to be able to do that."
Heinrich said about 156 people attended the reunion, which not only included family members, but friends and community representatives.
On Friday, Heinrich said a small group, including the French visitors, spent the day in Somerset, Jason Barron's hometown.
While she contacted all of the soldiers' families about Saturday's event, Heinrich said only Levy Guidry's family was able to attend.
"We wouldn't have missed it," said his sister, Joan Eymard. "You have to understand that we're a very close family. Now, we have another family."
Eymard said her mother never knew where Levy had died in France.
"That's why we made the journey over there several years ago," she said. "I knew we had to go."
Because she and her husband speak Cajun French, they were able to communicate with the Bignons. Now, she calls them on a monthly basis.
Eymard said she was 7 years old when her brother died and has memories of her mother receiving "a telegram telling her Levy was missing in action. Then, she received another telegram that said he had been killed in action. Can you imagine a mother holding out hope that they made a mistake with the first telegram and then receiving the second? It was unbelievably heartbreaking."
Eymard said she was old enough to remember her brother, "but, in my mind, he is still a young man. It's how I think of him always."
Emerson Barron, Jason's brother, said the trip to France, as well as Saturday's event, was extremely important to his family.
"For 62 years, we did not know the circumstances of my brother's death and didn't know if my brother's death would be forgotten," he said. "This has been a very emotional time for us."
"So many people come up to me and say, 'Now, you have closure,'" Emerson Barron said. "There is no closure."