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Roaming and Reading: Reliving WWI in France

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Victory Monument in Verdun, eastern France
People gathered to light the flame of remembrance at the Victory Monument in Verdun, eastern France, on Nov. 10, 2013, on the eve of Armistice Day.
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images

We've started a segment on The Daily Circuit called Roaming and Reading. It's a mash-up of two things Kerri loves: literature and travel.

In this installment, we travel to France's Lorraine region to relive the Western Front of World War I.

Our guide is Ceil Miller-Bouchet, writer for National Geographic Traveler magazine. She recently wrote about her trip to the region for Memorial Day with her brother, a veteran:

I place my hand over my heart as the first notes of the U.S. national anthem roll out. I've never felt prouder of my country — and closer to my brother — than here, in the rain, choking up to the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner" played by a military band from an American Air Force base in Germany at a WWI cemetery in France.

There's Mayor Nicholas Raffa in front of the marble chapel, surrounded by French and American dignitaries. Above them, inscribed on the doorframe: "In sacred sleep they rest."

I glance at Chris. His profile is stony, his eyes riveted on the American flag slowly rising up the pole.

Later, he confesses that since 2001, when he saw his comrades die in Afghanistan, he's dreaded Memorial Day. I had no idea he'd lost men in battle, and I'm ashamed that I never asked. But this commemoration, this pilgrimage, Chris tells me, has helped him face that tragic loss and fully honor the memory of his fellow soldiers, "those who gave all for our nation," just as their forebears did here, a century ago.