Usually in France I experience a loss for words when trying to access high school French vocabulary; but as I surveyed 14,246 headstones of World War I soldiers buried in a tranquil valley in Northeastern France, I was speechless.
My great grandpa Sam fought with the men who were buried here following the final battle of the Great War. Maybe some of them even protected his life. I had the sense that the interred had been waiting for me to visit, and that in a very real sense my life was made possible by their sacrifice.
The United States maintains 11 military cemeteries in France. Meuse-Argonne is the largest, impeccably preserved, and well worth a visit.
The memorial is 152 miles by car from Paris on the A-4, or a three hour train ride to Verdun, where taxis are available for the final 26 miles.