Shortly after Danielle Patrix was born in the village of Sainte Marie du Mont, the German army occupied France. For the first five years of Dany’s life, her family, and the French people were hungry, their clothes and shoes worn, and they could not gather in groups.
On June 6, 1944, when Dany was five years old, soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry and 101st Airborne Division liberated her village from Nazi control. Soldiers established a base on Utah Beach near Dany’s home, shared their provisions, and befriended the people of Sainte Marie du Mont. From the parachutes of the American soldiers who freed her, Dany’s mother sewed a red, white, and blue dress resembling the American flag. Dany wore the dress at the yearly D-Day celebration and became known as The Girl Who Wore Freedom.
Every year, the French people host a D-Day celebration. Waving American flags, hundreds of people dressed as civilians or GIs from the 1940s welcome visiting American soldiers. Now a grandmother, Dany wears the leather flight jacket given to her by the American pilot who often shared meals at the Patrix home. The French ask American soldiers to hold their babies, take photos with them, and women press red lipstick kisses on their cheeks. People stand in line for hours to meet World War II veterans, shake their hands, and thank them. During the ceremony, The Star Spangled Banner is played first, followed by The Marseillaise to remember that without American forces, there may not have been a French national anthem.
Having been under oppressive enemy occupation, the people of Sainte Marie du Mont, their children, and grandchildren understand the preciousness of freedom. They remember and they are grateful. Today, Dany’s red, white, and blue dress hangs in the Utah Beach Museum. The people of Sainte Marie du Mont remember and celebrate the brave Allied Forces who risked everything to bring liberty.