Roanoke man honors WWII veterans with annual dinner
The Holiday Inn Valley View is hosting the 35th Annual Bernard Marie WWII dinner.
Marie started the tribute after learning nothing was being done locally to honor the veterans who helped liberate his home country, France.
Since 1984, Bernard Marie has welcomed veterans and their families to a dinner on the evening of June 5.
It happens to be his birthday, but also the anniversary of the last day he and his family spent under Nazi occupation.
“I started my dinner and of course I didn't realize that they were only 60 years old, 64. I had 500 guys coming for my dinner. It was the most expensive birthday for me,” said Marie.
All jokes aside, he's become close friends over the 35 years with the men who came to his rescue.
He recalls a conversation with his American veteran friends about the moments after D-Day and they asked him how it’s possible that the French came out with flowers, a glass of wine, after allied forces destroy all of their houses.
“I say, ‘John and Hayden, a building can be repaired, a factory can be repaired, freedom -- if you lost it -- is pretty difficult to get it back and we there were obliged to do that for the freedom.’”
It was a celebration then and now.
However, Marie fears we've forgotten the sacrifice made.
"I can fill up the civic center with people in Roanoke who have not gone to the D-Day Memorial. It's only 35 miles from here, 45 minutes going there and it cost only $7 to go in,” said Marie.
After decades of recognition and honor over a hot plate of food, Marie has found his place in teaching the next generation -- and WWII veterans thank him for that.
“For me that was a mission -- to make people know. I don't run for office,” he said. “For me that was to say thank you to them. Matter of fact, if you see here you have a lot of things where they thank me because suddenly they were more recognized by me as a foreigner than by their own country.”
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