Brotherhood At Belleau Wood
Written by: Kody Roach
One of the places I felt compelled to visit while in the area was Belleau Wood in Belleau, France. The Battle of Belleau Wood is an historic battle in Marine Corps history; one all Marines are familiar with. A battle where the famous and highly decorated WWI Marine Sergeant Major Dan Daily is quoted, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” My type of guy.
It was a 4-hour drive from Strasbourg to Belleau, and then another 2 hours to our hotel in Paris – an easy stop on our scenic road trip. The drive was one that included many small French towns with old timey homes, windy two-lane roads, and beautiful countryside scenery; much of what you would expect from the French landscapes.
Pulling into the Belleau Wood American Monument felt really powerful. For one, it was nice to see the area was so well-kept; it was like a little piece of American beauty sitting right there in the French countryside. Secondly, the entrance was lined with large mature trees, well-groomed grass and landscaped gardens – I’m a sucker for this type of stuff. I felt like this would be a special place even for those who may not have been a Marine.
We pulled into the parking lot and made our way into the reception area. Here is where some historical information was posted, a sign-in booklet was offered (oh yes, we both made an entry), and maps of the area were handed out. Unfortunately, we had arrived just past the entire exhibit’s opening hours. However, we were still able to see the majority of the monument.
The skies were filled with clouds, some dark and others fluffy; all of which set a somber mood to the sobering reality of what happened here. To the left and right of the main monument were rows and rows of white crosses identifying military members who lost their lives here; many of the graves were simply marked with a star as their identity is unknown.
We walked in the monument; it was heartbreaking and amazing. I had a feeling of appreciation for the people on the walls, happy I was able to survive a combat zone and show my respect to my comrades years later. Etched into the walls and painted red were the names, ranks, units, dates of death and hometowns of hundreds of American military members. It was humbling. An altar, candle-lit chandelier and stained glass centered the room, adding beauty to the space.
Walking around the monument and hiking through the woods was enjoyable. The air was fresh, the birds sang and the view from behind was serene. We were lucky enough to be treated to the ringing of the bells as we explored. The area was manicured well but not so much as to take away from the natural surroundings. I really like the juxtaposition of these two contrasting parts of life: nature and nurture. It was just enough randomness in an area that has just the right amount of order – perhaps a type of reflection for those that fought at the Battle at Belleau Wood.