Veterans Day celebration holds link to historic French city

November 10, 2011
By Chris Saunders
Compiegne. Courtesy of Sister Cities of Raleigh.Photo by Stephane Aubry.

Compiegne. Courtesy of Sister Cities of Raleigh.Photo by Stephane Aubry.

Countless accounts chronicle the celebrations around the globe on Nov. 11, 1918. That day, Compiegne, a city in northern France, stood at the center of world as the location of  the final chapter of World War I.  At 5 a.m., in a railroad car in Compiegne’s forest, the Allies and Germany signed the Armistice that ended the war.

A little of Compiegne will come to NC State this week during the university’s Veterans Day Run and Ceremony.

In the mid-1980s, Gretchen Chapman was teaching middle-school French in Wake County. Chapman and her husband, George, who was Raleigh’s planning director at the time, started taking student groups to Compiegne, which later became a sister city of Raleigh.

The Chapmans have long been involved with the Sister Cities Association of Raleigh, and Gretchen Chapman is president of the organization today.  Over the years, multiple exchanges have taken place between Raleigh and Compiegne.

On Friday, M. Le Chatelier, whose wife is a former vice mayor of Compiegne, will be at NC State’s Veterans Day celebration at the Bell Tower. And at the same time, Compiegne’s mayor will place a wreath donated by the Sister Cities of Raleigh honoring the French dead of World War I.

The event will be symbolic on many levels, George Chapman says. “The ROTC here are some of the oldest in the country,” he says. “The celebration at the Bell Tower is one of the oldest in the country. We hope as time goes on it will become more well known as a commemorative celebration of those who died in World War I and the connection to the city where the Armistice was signed.”

Sister Cities of Raleigh also have relationships with other cities, including Kingston Upon Hull, England; Rostock, Germany; and Xiangfan, China.

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