Gabby goes with her family to visit the ancestral lands of Normandy and Brittany. Gabby likes cemeteries because they are park-like and the one that hosts her family has a nice view of the sea. Her parents leave her there while they go to town to arrange for some kind of marker for Camille.
While walking through the stones, she notices little markers beside many of the graves. They denote people who had served during the Second World War in the resistance. Gabby had profound respect for those who fought in secret under the noses of the enemy. It had to be terrifying.
Finally, she comes to where she believes her relative lies but sees an elderly man with a cane placing some flowers before the headstone. “Who can this be?” she wondered. Speaking in French she enquires about his connection to this Herve/Harvey Benedict.
“This man saved my life and many others defying the Nazi’s. He was a hero in the Resistance. Many people in this town owe him a great debt.”
Gabby is confused. “You must be mistaken. He’s is my Great Grand Uncle who came to France after the war. He couldn’t have been in the Resistance.” The old man pauses to think.
“It’s been nearly 80 years. It’s time for the truth. This man was an American airman that my brother and others found dangling in a tree badly injured. We saved him and he stayed with us to fight the Boche. Our Resistance network could have gotten him back to England but he didn’t want to go. Many thought him a coward for this decision but Herve was no coward. His clever ideas and disguises tricked the enemy so often we made the enemy fear us. He was a great man.” With that revelation, he walked away leaving Gabby overwhelmed.
His story is plausible for someone. American not English? Then she remembered the story Becca told about her Great Grandfather who disappeared after a bombing raid. Could she be looking at his grave? She decided to say nothing to her parents and contact Becca with this fantastic story.
Once back in the UK, Gabby messages Becca that she needs to talk to her and they arrange for a good time. When Gabby calls, she relates her trip to France and the strange story she heard from the elderly man at the graveside. “Is it possible that Harvey Benedict and your Great Grandfather are the same person?” Becca verifies her assumption and explains that she has known for some time. She promised Camille that she would say nothing until the parties closest to the events had passes away. Now the cat was out of the bag. Gabby learns about how angry Becca is at Harry/Harvey for abandoning his family. But Gabby explains what a brave man he was in France fighting secretly and saving lives at the risk of his. Becca can be proud. Gabby had done some research on the bombers and their crews. “With what I learned and understanding what we now know as PTSD, I cannot blame anyone for wanting to find a way out. The stress was relentless. Little rest and horrifying losses with each raid. These had to be men of iron. You can’t judge him, Becca, for wanting to survive. It’s amazing that he gathered himself together to accomplish with the Maquis what he couldn’t do with bombs.”
Gabby related that she wants to get a marker next to the grave to commemorate his service with the Resistance. She will have to tell her parents the truth but sees no problem with this. It needs to be done soon because the witnesses to his actions are dying off. Becca can keep her promise to Camille as she feels appropriate. The young American agrees that Gabby can go ahead and try for the recognition.
In early May each year Europe remembers the day the Allies were victorious over the Germans. Now, on a windswept cliff a cemetery honors those who did their part to secure that victory and, beside the grave of Herve Benedict a French flag waves for his service to France and the world.
1 Like | 0 comment