Seven nations gather in Djibouti, honor the fallen during Armistice Day ceremony

The flag of the French Somali Battalion is displayed during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Troops from the Horn of Africa and Yemen carried the flag through both world wars. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image The flag of the French Somali Battalion is displayed during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Troops from the Horn of Africa and Yemen carried the flag through both world wars.
French Foreign Legionnaires raise the flags of Djibouti and France prior to a remembrance ceremony, Nov. 11, 2015, at the military cemetery in Djibouti. The flags were raised prior to the start of the Armistice Day ceremony. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image French Foreign Legionnaires raise the flags of Djibouti and France prior to a remembrance ceremony, Nov. 11, 2015, at the military cemetery in Djibouti. The flags were raised prior to the start of the Armistice Day ceremony.
Troops stand in formation during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Participants stationed in Djibouti from seven countries joined the ceremony commemorating the end of World War I. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image Troops stand in formation during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Participants stationed in Djibouti from seven countries joined the ceremony commemorating the end of World War I.
The officiating party salutes the colors of the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. The ceremony commemorated the end of hostilities in World War I. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image The officiating party salutes the colors of the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. The ceremony commemorated the end of hostilities in World War I.
French Air Force Brig. Gen. Phillip Montocchio, salutes while reviewing troops during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Montocchio is the commanding officer for all French forces in Djibouti and was the officiating officer for the event. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image French Air Force Brig. Gen. Phillip Montocchio, salutes while reviewing troops during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Montocchio is the commanding officer for all French forces in Djibouti and was the officiating officer for the event.
French troops stand guard over the flag of the French Somali Battalion during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Troops from the Horn of Africa and Yemen carried the flag through both world wars. Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image French troops stand guard over the flag of the French Somali Battalion during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. Troops from the Horn of Africa and Yemen carried the flag through both world wars.
Veterans of the French Somali Battalion observe events during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. The veterans from World War II were guests of honor for the event.  Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Image Veterans of the French Somali Battalion observe events during the Armistice Day ceremony at the French Marine Base, Nov. 11, 2015. The veterans from World War II were guests of honor for the event.

Troop formations from seven nations march around the perimeter of the barren square. Commands are called in French, and hundreds snap to attention in unison. Bugles play and flags are paraded. All the prestige and pageantry are for one goal – remembrance.

For nearly 100 years nations have annually commemorated the end of World War I on Nov. 11 with an Armistice Day ceremony.

“The meaning of the ceremony is to remember all nations that took part in the first world conflict almost 100 years ago,” said French Air Force Brig. Gen. Phillip Montocchio, Commander French Forces, Djibouti.

Ceremonial commands were issued in French to troops from France, Djibouti, the United States, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan who gathered to remember the sacrifices of those who served before them and why they fought.

“We are in a unique place in the world,” said Montocchio. “We can gather all the nations and military detachments that were friends or enemies in the past, and today we are all together.”

Montocchio stressed the importance of continuing the traditions of Armistice Day for past, present and future generations.

“It is important to remember the sacrifice of all the generations,” said Montocchio. “What they did was with the objective of giving to the future generation a peaceful world.”

 

Veterans of the Somali Battalion, who fought for the French during World War II, were the guests of honor during the event.

“The Somali battalion had great victories fighting the Germans,” said French Army Capt. Thibaut Hardy, 5th Marines traditions officer. “They had people from Ethiopia, Yemen, Djibouti, Comoros, Madagascar, and other former French colonies.”

The veterans of this unit bring with them a rich tradition to include their unit flag, flown in both WWI and WWII.

“They were committed along with the 5th Marine Battalion during the whole war,” said Hardy. “The battalion flag is full of history because it survived through two wars [alongside] the French. We keep it as a legacy from our elders and our Djiboutian brothers in arms.”

Recalling those who sacrificed life and limb allows the current generation to share their legacies with those who will come after.

“World War I means a lot of sacrifice, and it is our duty to remember,” said Hardy. “We have to commemorate events because it permits us to educate the younger generations that liberty comes at a cost and nothing is given.”

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Djibouti French military ceremony Marine Marine

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