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Marie-T Lavielle
Village of Pretot (near Picauville) on the Manche (the sleeve-like peninsula of Normandy, France)

June 6, 1944 at 6 a.m.

In the heart of the Cotentin region on an isolated farm occupied by my family, I awoke abruptly.

What was happening? I was under the impression that the wall that my bed was against trembled and resounded. Then I heard some voices in the kitchen.

Quickly I got up and discovered an unusual scene. A man quite bizarre was seated in a chair in the middle of the room. He wore sort of a khaki uniform, very soft and flexible, with pockets throughout.

On his head, he wore a helmet covered with leaves, while his face was camouflaged in black. He spoke using words that I could not understand. My mother and brothers surrounded him, and were trying to guess what he was saying.

His left hand seemed to support his arm. Without ceasing, he repeated broken, broken.

Suddenly, releasing his arm, he pulled out a knife that was contained in a sheath on his lower leg. He then cut a strip from a roll of bandage that had been in a pocket in his pants. And, most wonderfully, he pulled out a chocolate bar that he gave to us.

This man, quite strange, was, thus, our friend.

Broken this first English word remains burned into my memory.

This paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division was lost in the country of Normandy, on this morning, and had a broken shoulder. One of my brothers drove him to a place where he was cared for.

As for me, I was 9 years old, - and because of this extraordinary experience, I became an English professor, often serving as an interpreter during ceremonies of the Anniversary of D-Day.

Marie T Lavielle (April 5th, 2001 at age 66)

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