Paris BIA Student's Quest to Find Relative's Remains in Normandy

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Jill Kruidenier
October 15, 2013

Each year, IES Abroad Paris BIA students participate in a field trip to Normandy, where they discover the landing sites of World War II and the American cemetery at Colleville. Although sure to be a moving experience for all, it is a rare occasion when a student has a personal connection to a fallen soldier. Paris BIA Fall 2013 and University of the Pacific student, Christopher “Anthony” Garza, shares the heartwarming story of his search for his great-uncle’s grave:

“Louis V. Quiñones was [my grandmother Mary Quiñones Elias' brother] and the fifth sibling out of 12. He was a Private in the U.S. Army, 320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. She had five other siblings that also served in the military; two in the Army, two in the Navy, and one in the Marines. All the brothers fought in WWII; Louis and another brother were killed in action.

My family only knew that Louis’ remains were at the Normandy American Cemetery in St. Laurent-sur-Mer. The other brother is buried in the American Cemetery in Manila in the Philippines. Upon arrival in France, I wanted to try to search for Louis' remains. The field trip to Normandy was a perfect opportunity. Peggy [Schwob, Paris BIA Student Services Coordinator] had called the main visitors center to help me search and they informed us that they could not find his remains because the cemetery at St.Laurent-sur-Mer had been moved; his remains were either moved back to the U.S. or moved to Colleville-sur-Mer, but they could not find his name.

Nathalie [Lenfant, Paris BIA Center Director] wanted to try and ask the visitors center when we arrived, and when we got there they told us they found him and he was buried in Colleville-sur-Mer. Nathalie and I were amazed and happy that we had actually found my great-uncle's remains after the initial failed attempt.

A guide that works at the cemetery took Nathalie and I to the location of his grave and performed a little ceremony for his passing; she placed sand from Omaha Beach on the white marble cross to reveal his name and placed an American flag and French flag in the soil.

After saying a prayer, I was able to part with my great-uncle for my family. The experience was something I have never had in my life and I am so happy that I was able to visit such a historic place and do this for my grandmother. You can imagine how she was when I called her and told her. I cannot wait to go home and give her all the memorabilia from the cemetery and the sand and rock I brought from Omaha Beach.”

Nathalie recalls, “All of us accompanying staff were in tears seeing his emotion in this place that is already so emotionally charged.”  They plan to revisit Anthony’s great-uncle‘s grave twice a year on subsequent field trips. 


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Jill Kruidenier

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