At the heart of Project Vigil
Before I started my blog, my father and I would go to Normandy in June for the anniversary of D-Day to do what we call "Project Vigil." This is what I do: For several days a year I stand vigil at the graves of Stanley Stockins, George Radeka and Philip Germer, in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville, France. When I stand vigil, I watch over my three soldiers. I talk to them. I just like to be with them and keep them company. If someone comes to visit their graves and would like to hear their life stories or look at photos of them, that's when I get to work.
I have stood at those three graves in the blazing heat and in the ice cold wind and rain for up to three hours, waiting, with my board in my hands, for just one person to come up to me and ask about "my" soldier. That's what I live for. In fact, it's what I wait all year for. Telling their stories so people will know them and remember them. It is truly the heart and soul of my project.
What happens most of the time is that I'll start talking and I realize the visitors don't understand what I'm saying. You see, most of the people who come to the Normandy American Cemetery are Europeans who come to pay their respects. I return the favor by asking them if they'd prefer if I told the story in French (I'm very lucky to be fluent in French). Usually, when I offer them this, they burst into a huge smile. It makes me happy to see that smile, and it makes me proud that I am American and can communicate with the grateful Europeans in their native language. But to be perfectly honest, it makes me even more proud to tell the stories of my three heroes in English to my fellow Americans, who have traveled thousands of miles to visit the sacred ground of the American Cemetery, overlooking Omaha beach.
Sergeant Lowe's Idea
A while back, Daddy and I were corresponding through E-Mail with Sergeant Derick Lowe, a United States Marine Sergeant who fought in the second battle of Fallujah. You can read about Derick in Patrick O'Donnell's book "We were one".
Sgt. Lowe told me that he wished he could see what I do in the cemetery and suggested we make a video of me telling a life story. Daddy liked this idea and wanted to share our experience with Sgt. Lowe, so when we went up to Normandy last June, Daddy filmed me telling the stories of Stanley Stockins and George Radeka. Today I decided to edit and publish one of the two I have. It's Stanley's biography. I hope to post the life story of George Radeka very soon.
The video: At the Grave of Stanley Stockins. Telling Stanley's Story.
So, for Sgt. Lowe, for Stanley's sister Arlene and for Arlene's daughter Sandy, and for you, please click here to watch the video of me telling Stanley's story, while standing vigil at his grave on the 71st anniversary of his death. D-Day 2015.
You can also click here to read a more detailed version of Stanley's biography on my blog.
I would like to thank Sgt. Derick Lowe for the idea of filming the biography. I hope I make you proud. I would like to thank Stanley's sister Arlene and her daughter Sandy for all the information and photos they sent us. Without their help we never could have created this biography.