Speech by Jean-Jacques Piot, the French representative of the RAFES at the French Air Forces Club, June 1995
When you look at the sky and see an aircraft flying over, is there a chance that you can meet the aircrew, or hostess, or the passengers? None, absolutely none.
However, if we are all here happily together, it is because that happened to you on a certain day during the war.
At that time we were anonymous companions in a great struggle for freedom. Thereafter we became friends because you created the RAFES and expanded its membership from Norway/Denmark to Poland and Greece, from Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg to Italy and France, who nearly all have representatives here today 'et je les salue'.
Congratulations as you made great achievements during these 50 years of peace.
This leads me to two conclusions:-
That your association has always been cheerful, successful and a well managed enterprise, a great ambassador of your country. You have decided that your Society has reached the age of retirement. We should not be sad about it. Everyone retires, but the nice links so created remain - and will remain.
The second conclusion is a little longer.
In this room we have known the ghastly destruction of war, the death of companions. But we can say after half a century that peace is the greatest accomplishment of our war-scarred generation. It is is the best present we can give to those who follow.
Peace among nations, as amongst individuals, is not a free gift of God. Each one among us must constantly work at it. If we strive to accept differences as a source of enriching diversity instead of conflicts, we will secure indeed that brighter future of which we dreamed in those dark days, long ago, and feel closer to each other.
Closer! In fact, did you realize that when you took the Eurostar Shuttle how, 50 years after, Europe - from London to East Germany - is now becoming a single entity with common aims and pleasant people to meet?
Let us continue to work for peace.
That was the second message I wanted to convey.
It comes with renewed and joyful gratitude for the warm and so faithful friendship you have always given to all your Helpers in the various countries on so many occasions, and none more moving than today.