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What is the first monument erected in honour of French soldiers who died while serving in external operations?

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In October 2011, General Bernard Thorette, former Chief of Staff of the French Army (2002 – 2006), proposed to erect a national monument in Paris dedicated to the memory of the soldiers who died during various external operations (OPEX) conducted since 1963. The ceremony that launched the work of the monument took place on 18 April 2017 within the 'André-Citroën' park at the 'Eugénie-Djendi' gardens – named after second lieutenant Eugénie-Malika Djendi, a female radio operator and deported resistant who was executed in Ravensbrück, Germany in 1945. President François Hollande laid the foundation stone. Designed by Paris artist Stéphane Vigny (1977 – ), the commemorative site will include a statue depicting six soldiers carrying an invisible coffin and the names of deceased soldiers will be engraved. The erection of this monument meets a strong expectation of the families as well as their comrades in arms.

Pending the inauguration of the national monument tentatively scheduled for November 2019, a local monument – designed by Jean-Claude Champion of Elven – has been erected in Morbihan to honour these soldiers. It will be inaugurated on Saturday, 9 March 2019 in the city of Theix-Noyalo (Morbihan, Brittany). The monument was created, financed and conceived by the Association nationale des Titulaires du Titre de Reconnaissance de la Nation (ANT-TRN) and received active support from the city's elected officials. Created in 1996 by Alain Couperie, its founding president, one of its goals was to perpetuate the remembrance of French soldiers "de la 4ème génération du feu" who died in external operations after the Algerian War (1954-1962). As shown in the photograph, the black marble monument, more than two metres high, bears the inscription "AUX SOLDATS FRANÇAIS MORTS POUR LA FRANCE EN OPÉRATIONS EXTÉRIEURES", under a stylized planisphere. Surrounding the central stele are three pillars with images representing the three services of their armed forces (from left to right): "l'armée de Terre, l'armée de l’Air, la Marine nationale." With a total cost of €23,000, it was financed exclusively by the association. The monument was erected on land donated by the municipality of Theix-Noyalo, near the town's war memorial dedicated to the First and Second World Wars. While not planned as such but inspired by General Thorette's vision, the city of Theix-Noyalo has the unique privilege of having the first commemorative monument in France to be erected in honour of French soldiers who died while serving in external operations in the context of international mandates.

On this day, 9 March 2019, we celebrate the official unveiling of France's first monument erected in honour of the nearly 700 French soldiers who have died in external operations since 1963 and mark more than 23 years since the creation of the Association nationale des Titulaires du Titre de Reconnaissance de la Nation.

Christophe Kervégant-Tanguy / André M. Levesque

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