This past weekend in St. Avold, France
David D. Miller +49 6221 594535 (DDM@DHDIBM1.BITNET)
Tue, 25 May 1993 06:53:42 -0600
Because of a European religious holiday next weekend, the 'Memorial Day'
service at the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold was held this
past Sunday. Some 120 American Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from Military
communities in southern Germany spent the weekend there doing a joint
service project with French Scouts from St. Avold and the nearby city
The Scouts stayed at a small campsite/hostel on the hill above the town
of St. Avold, some camping out and others staying indoors. The entire
campsite was turned over to the Scouts, including the cafe/bistro and
its kitchen. The Girl Scouts used central catering, the Boy Scouts and
French Scouts cooked for each Troop.
On Saturday morning, the Scouts helped to prepare the cemetery for
the service, placing an American and a French flag in front of each
of the 10487 headstones (Yes, nearly 21 thousand flags!). Some Scouts
just walked along the rows of stones placing the flags on them, others
followed in teams of three to punch holes in the turf and plant the
flags. Other jobs done included folding programs, and helping the
local florists to place flowers, sent by families, on the correct
After a lunch back at the campsite, the American Girl Scouts went on a
tour of one of the bunkers on the Maginot Line, the line of French
fortresses and artillery emplacements that stretched from Switzerland
right up to the Belgian border. The bunker visited includes two
fortified entrances with guns, and one concealed machine-gun turret.
The main living and working areas are all around 30m (100ft) below
ground level, and the deepest parts of the complex some 212m (650ft)
deep. The bunker was designed to be lived in by 120 soldiers for up
to six months without resupply. With the tour guides speaking only
limited English, leaders had to translate (from German or French) so
that the girls could understand. As a boy, our tour guide lived in
the village immediately behind the bunker we visited, and he gave us a
lot of background information on conditions in the region from when
the bunker was built in 1932 until it was lost to German forces in
After the tour, the Heidelberg Troops went to visit a typical French
supermarche. One troop has created its own "International Shopping"
Interest Project, focussing on the differences and similarities in
shopping in various European countries. Although some of the girls
have lived in Germany for nearly four years, and have totally adapted
to German shopping, being in a French supermarket and being unable to
read any of the product labels was a new and frightening experience
for them. However, after nearly 90 minutes of shopping, they were
quite at home.
Saturday evening was spent around a campfire, sharing songs and games
with the French Scouts. It's so fun seeing the mix of traditions:
the younger French Scouts play games and set each other challenges
around the fire; the American Scouts have the "usual" collection of
fun songs; and the older French scouts (and some of the US leaders) sat
up late and sang 'oldies'. Toasting marshmallows is one of the stranger
American traditions that was passed on to the French that night.
Back at the cemetery the following morning, the best uniformed Cadettes
handed out programs to the visitors as they arrived. The service
itself began with the playing of the French and American national
anthems, a drive-past of WW II military vehicles (provided by an
enthusiasts club), and a fly-past by aircraft from the French Tactical
Air Force. After speeches by various dignitaries, including the Mayor
of St. Avold, the Prefect of that region of France, and the American
Consul General from Strasbourg, wreaths were laid by representatives
of various organizations. Each wreath was carried by a French Scout
and an American Scout.
The 16 Cadette and Junior Girl Scouts from Heidelberg and their leaders
paid for the entire trip, including the lease of three minibusses and
accommodation in the hostel, with the profits from cookie sales.
David D. Miller
Scouting in Europe - A Unique Experience
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City