Our esteemed member Emile René Gueguen passed away on February 14, 2003. A memorial ceremony took place on March 6, at Mount Soledad, Los Angeles. Among family, many friends and military associates, was Marc Auger, Officier, representing our Society. Christian Bickert, President of the American Society of Le Souvenir Français represented the Federation of the French War Veterans of New York and its President, André Ferrara. Mr. Ferrara served in the same Paratrooper Regiment with Colonel Gueguen in Algeria. The Honorable Jean-Luc Sibiude, Consul General of France in Los Angeles, paid final tribute to Emile Gueguen and excerpts of his speech follow:
Colonel Émile René Guéguen
Dear French and American Friends,
My first words are for Mrs Annie Gueguen and for Raoul and Michel, Emile Gueguen's sons.
We are gathered today to honor the memory of your husband and father,, the memory of an hero and a true soldier, the memory of an extraordinary French figure and a real friend of the United States. We are gathered today to tell you in this moment of a great sorrow how much we care for you and how deep is our gratitude to Colonel Emile Gueguen, who will be living in our memories and in history.
I unfortunately missed the occasion to know Colonel Gueguen personally, but I think that no French official can fall short of words to describe all that France owes to him and to his example.
We pay respect today to a soldier, a French patriot in love with his country and its universal values of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. Emile Gueguen had spent his teenage years in his native Brittany resisting the Nazis and the Occupation of France. At the age of 19, he was arrested, tortured and miraculously escaped from death. He founded the famous underground cell Maquis de Saint-Laurent. On June 5th, 1944, he joined the members of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. With them, he continued the fight against the Germans until their defeat and surrender.
Since I mentioned this historical period of France, let me welcome the presence, among us, of another great figure of the Resistance, M. Marc Auger, who represents the American Society of the French Legion of Honor. Let me also welcome Emile Gueguen's many friends and many personalities who are among us today, some coming from New York, and even from France. It is hard to mention all of them: Bernard Colas, President of the French Paratroopers Association, General de Sassy, Christian Bickert, who represents Le Souvenir Français.
After the Second World War, Emile Gueguen served as a career officer on many battlefields, in Indochina, in Algeria. He was wounded twice and received no less than 12 Silver Stars (Croix de Guerre) for bravery. His numerous faits d'armes are still taught in the French war academies, inspiring the French young cadets. As a dedicated , brave soldier, Emile Gueguen has constantly shown, throughout his life, that there are times when values and political convictions must be fought for and defended. Even if this has to be done through the use of force.
In this uneasy period of French-American relations, I also have the privilege to pay tribute to a constant and great friend of the United States.
Colonel Gueguen had chosen to settle in California in 1988. His whole life and his commitments are an extraordinary symbol of the deepness of the bonds uniting France and the US. I would like to strongly reaffirm to our Americans friends that the examples of people like Emile Gueguen as well as the examples of all the American veterans who have offered their lives for the freedom of my country, and for the freedom of Europe, cannot and will not be forgotten. French and Americans have been shoulder to shoulder on many battlefields, recently in the Balkans, today in Afghanistan or against terrorist threats. But it is also the privilege of real friends to be able to tell each other the truth. Let there be no misunderstanding ; it is not because we can at times disagree that we stop being friends and allies.
I could have recalled many other aspects of Colonel Gueguen's personality and life: his passion for Napoleon the First, his passion, along with his children, for sports and his dedication to its promotion.
… In June 1994, Colonel Gueguen had fought again, this time peacefully, to be allowed to repeat, along with his British and American fellow veterans, a symbolic jump over Normandy, 50 years after D-Day. This gesture, internationally acclaimed, will remain as a strong symbol of our time-tested alliance and as a symbol of an everlasting friendship.
Merci Emile. Vive l'amitié franco-américaine !
Speaking on behalf of our Society at the behest of Guy Wilderstein, Marc Auger, Officier, wished to express his compassion for Mrs. Annie Gueguen and he recalled the very moving ceremony that took place on October 15, 1996, in the courtyard of the Invalides, in Paris when President Jacques Chirac elevated Colonel Emile Gueguen to the dignity of Grand Officier of the Legion of Honor.