The 84-year-old sister of a New Brunswick soldier killed on D-Day was in Normandy on Friday to see an elementary school renamed after her brother.
Jeannine Mercier (née Roy) was nine when her 21-year-old brother, Pte. Louis Valmont Roy, was killed on the night of June 6, 1944 in the village of Anguerny.
“I am proud,” said Mercier, remembering how her father was very reluctant to allow his son to join the military at the start of the war.
“It’s an honour and it’s a recognition for his work, and I think that dad would reconcile with the whole thing.”
Known to family and friends as Valmont, the soldier from the Régiment de la Chaudière’s A Company was shot during a gunfight after German troops broke through a Canadian perimeter set up about seven kilometres inland.
Roy’s body was found on June 7. He is among the 2,048 soldiers buried at the nearby Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, most of whom are Canadian.
Mercier’s father, Henri Donat Roy, was the station agent in Kedgwick, N.B., and was the first person to read the telegram saying his son was missing in action.
“That was disaster day,” recalled Mercier. “Dad was mad at first. (Valmont) should have listened to him.
“But mum took it and said: ‘Look, if he saved a regiment, it was worth it.’”
The last time Mercier saw Valmont was when he came home for a visit when she was five. He asked his little sister to polish the buttons on his uniform.
“There was a design (on each button) so I had to go and polish in between,” she said.
“And, oh my God, I had to do it right because I was so proud of him, and, hey, I was helping my brother that was in the army.”
A plaque commemorating Roy and six other soldiers from the Régiment de la Chaudière was erected close to the school in 1990, but Mayor Jean-Luc Guillouard wanted to do something special for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
“It was more important for us to name a regular soldier than one who was an officer,” he said.
Roy was initially buried in the village before being transferred to the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery after the war.
Local families in Normandy volunteer to look after one or more graves at the cemetery.
Mercier, who lives in Edmundston, N.B., travelled to Normandy with her son, Paul, a retired major in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
They only found out about the June 7 ceremony 10 days beforehand when Global News contacted Mercier to interview her about the event.
She immediately knew she had to be there, and Guillouard welcomed Mercier and Paul to stay at his home for five days.
“I’m glad I came and I’ll be back,” said Mercier.
“If I can, I will be back and see the friends I have made here.”