BRANSON, Mo. Dany Patrix-Boucherie was just five years-old on June 6, 1944 when Allied forces invaded on D-Day and liberated her village in Normandy, France from German occupation.
Being so young, her fondest memory is that the American soldiers were handing out something she'd never had before....candy.
"All the chocolate that the G.I. gave to her it was very new for her because there was no chocolate in France at that time," said her daughter Flo, who served as a translator.
A year later as Normandy held its first D-Day commemoration parade, Dany wore an American-flag dress made by her mom with the silk of the parachutes used in the invasion and Dany became the symbol of Normandy's never-ending appreciation to the soldiers who changed their lives forever.
Dany's father put it best.
"He said we go to bed German. We wake up American," Flo recalled.
Dany and Flo joined documentary filmmaker Christian Taylor on Wednesday at Branson's IMAX theater for Taylor's labor of love about Dany and her fellow D-Day survivors called "The Girl Who Wore Freedom". The 140-minute film recounts many emotional, heart-wrenching stories of what families went through on that day, not only bringing tears to Dany but to many of the others in the packed crowd.
Even more extraordinary was the documentary's showing of how the people of Normandy still turn out by the thousands 75 years later to shower praise on U.S. Veterans who return there.
"When the veterans talk about the ceremony and all the French citizens do for them it's very emotional for me and I cry a lot," Dany said (through Flo's interpretation).
It's a depth of gratitude that Taylor experience firsthand.
"I had been there five minutes and they treated me like I had liberated Normandy," she said of the French people reaching out with love. "When you have been occupied by an enemy force freedom means something completely different than we understand today. So I realized that if I had learned that lesson, a lot of people in America probably needed to learn it too. I would like people to leave this film understanding the French have set an example of how we should treat our veterans."
"Not only do the French owe those boys a debt of freedom but the world owes them a debt of freedom and I owe them a debt of freedom," added John Ashcroft, the former Missouri Governor, U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General who attended the movie. "Today is a day for gratitude for people who literally give themselves up so that freedom endures."
With tears in his eyes, Utah Cooper, a Vietnam Vet, traveled all the way from Oklahoma to see the film and agreed that the greatest generation is not valued as much as they should be.
"They've been the back bone of America," he said. "They're the ones that saved America and we don't thank 'em enough. We just warehouse 'em."
"The Girl Who Wore Freedom" will be shown again Friday at 8:30 a.m. at IMAX. Two other films are part of IMAX’s 7th Annual Military Film Fest. "Scramble the Seawolves" will be shown Thursday, November 7, and "Chosin" on Saturday, November 9. Show times are 8:30 a.m.