Twenty-one blasts reverberated across the waterfront of Yorktown, Va., June 2, rolling across the water as the French frigate La Fayette (F710) rendered honors to the U.S. and French Sailors who stood ashore.
At attention, their arms raised in similar yet distinguished salutes, the Sailors returned the honor, reflecting on the strong alliance between France and the United States – an alliance that has existed since the American Revolutionary War and one that allowed the United States its independence from Great Britain.
It was a commemoration of the mutual gratitude between the two countries. The captain and 30 members of the crew of La Fayette anchored the ship just off shore to lay a wreath at the base of the Yorktown Victory Monument. The monument was completed in 1884 in memory of the joint French and U.S. victory over Great Britain at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.
“Twice America has been called to sacrifice its sons in order to preserve the freedom of France,” said French Navy Capt. Serge Bordarier, commanding officer of La Fayette, in reference to both world wars. “We have no right to forget the debt we owe.”
La Fayette is the second French ship to be named in honor of Marquis de La Fayette, a general in the American Revolutionary War and close partner of Gen. George Washington.
“It’s not every day that you get to come out here, with beautiful weather and beautiful ships, and have our allies right here with us,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Haebler, commanding officer of Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. “The ties between the United States and France go all the way back to the founding of the Navy, and it’s just another day we get to celebrate and commemorate the sacrifices made by both [countries].”
Bordarier’s desire to honor the alliance led him to reach out to Dan Smith, the superintendent of Colonial National Historic Park, to hold and organize the wreath-laying ceremony. More than 200 people were in attendance.
“These events are so important for our young to realize there is this military history; there is this alliance with France,” said Smith. “We have a lot of retired Navy here today, as well as World War II veterans and Vietnam veterans.”
La Fayette will continue joint exercises with the U.S. fleet throughout the coming weeks, and is scheduled to arrive in the New York Harbor in the next few days to honor the anniversary of D-Day, another important battle that helped forge the friendship between France and America.
“Each time an American Soldier falls, wherever in the world it may be, France feels solidarity with the United States,” said Bordarier. “That lone Soldier resembles those who fought for us on two separate occasions and sacrificed their lives in doing so. The friendship between our two countries will remain a keystone of our diplomacy.”
Press Release, June 04, 2014; Image: US Navy