Sunday, November 11, 2007

Louis de Cazenave

Today is Armistice Day in France. This is a photo of Louis de Cazenave, one of the last two French surviors of the First World War. He's 110 years old and lives in Brioude, a town in the Auvergne that I have cycled through. Today in Le Monde there was an article about M. de Cazenave and the other surviving 'poilu,' as France's WWI veterans are called, Lazare Ponticelli. Here's what it says:
"At 110, Louis de Cazenave and Lazare Ponticelli are too old to take orders from anyone. The time when they could be ordered by a whistle to go over the trench top is long gone. France's last two WWI vets just want to be left in peace. Neither one appreciated it when in 2005 the veterans' administration, led by the President Chirac, decided, without asking them, to plan a state funeral for the last veteran of World War I. The possibility of burying the last veteran in the Pantheon or next to the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe was discussed. But the two vets don't want anything to do with all that. They have their own plans. Louis de Cazenave wants to be buried with his family in the cemetary of Saint-George d'Aurac, where he was born on Oct. 16, 1897. He won't change his mind. He never liked medals and honors. "A load of rubish!" he says.
Having come back from the front a convinced pacifist, it was only after much insistance that he accepted the Legion of Honnor medal in the 1990s. "They can stick it!" he told his son. "Some of my pals didn't even get a wooden cross." He says his last wish is "to be left in peace."

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