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    US military cemeteries bind today’s generations to yesterday’s

    Ramstein Airmen honor U.S. veterans in Belgium

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Joshua Joseph Magbanua | A statue towers above Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Belgium, Nov. 11,...... read more read more

    CHIEVRES, WHT, BELGIUM

    05.21.2020

    Courtesy Story

    U.S. Army Garrison Benelux

    CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- Memorial Day is a call to remember and pay tribute to those who gave their lives, their courage, their legacy and their service so we can live in a free world.

    U.S. military cemeteries are solemn and revered sites and permanent reminders of those sacrifices. They are designed to pay tribute to the men and women of the United States who traveled to a foreign country to stand up for the values they believed in and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice.

    The numbers of war dead speak for themselves. Overall, almost 125,000 Americans rest in U.S. military cemeteries on foreign soil. They fell in a number of different conflicts and lie in cemeteries across Europe, Africa and the Pacific.

    Each site has its own story, just as each has its own layout, but they all share the common goal of providing hallowed grounds to pay tribute to the thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who fell in battle and remain in foreign land today.

    Five such American cemeteries are located in the Benelux footprint and are not only a lasting memorial to the men and women who rest here. They are also a link that binds the military of today to the military of yesterday, and a link that binds Americans to Belgians and Dutch alike.

    The largest is the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial located in Margraten, where 8,301 service members are buried and 1,722 names are listed on the tablets of the missing.

    Belgium is home to three of those cemeteries. Flanders Field occupies a 6.2-acre site near Waregem. At this peaceful site rest 368 military dead, most of whom gave their lives in liberating the soil of Belgium in World War I.

    The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial contains the graves of 7,992 service members as well as the names of 450 missing. The Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial contains the remains of 5,323 military dead and lists the names of 463 of the missing.

    In Hamm, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial provides a final resting place to 5,076 fallen service members, including Gen. George Patton Jr., and lists the names of 371 of the missing.

    All four of the World War II cemeteries started as temporary sites. Ardennes was an official identification station as well as a temporary cemetery. At the end of the war, approximately 11,000 service members were buried in what is now the site of the Ardennes cemetery. Margraten was at one point the largest American cemetery in Europe. After the war ended, almost 18,000 American men and women rested there.

    Some cemeteries also housed the remains of German Soldiers who were later repatriated to their home country. The same was true at Henri-Chapelle, where the remains of almost 17,000 service members were buried at the end of the war.

    In the years following, the U.S. government gave Families who had loved ones in overseas cemeteries the option of leaving them there permanently or having them disinterred and sent home. Over 60 percent of the Families chose to bring them home.

    For those who remained near the battlefield, the American Battle Monuments Commission took over, providing a hallowed ground for them to rest and a place where visitors could pay their respects and gain insight into the lives of the men and women behind the names on the headstones or stars of David.

    The staffs at all cemeteries try to put a face on every name. When possible, they contact the families back home to get their stories or pictures. When visitors stop by their information centers, superintendents and their staffs make every effort to escort them to the grounds, telling individual stories and explaining facts behind the construction of the cemeteries.

    At each of the cemeteries in the Benelux, several sets of brothers are buried side-by-side. Margraten has 40 pairs of brothers, Luxembourg has 22 and one set of close friends, who are buried next to each other at the request of their families, and Henri-Chapelle has 36 pairs of brothers and one set of three brothers who rest side by side.

    In the various cemeteries, there are men who also have ties to the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, including Sgt. Louis Colwart Jr., a crewmember on the B-17 “Susan Ruth” which crashed in the Chimay region in February 1944. Colwart was killed at the site and is remembered by Christel Delahaye, her “Duty to Remember” association and representatives from USAG Benelux and 424th Airbase Squadron each year. Another crewmember, Sgt. John Pindroch, rests at Margraten. He survived the plane crash but was executed by the enemy several months later.

    Seven men who were part of the “Wereth 11” are buried at the Henri-Chapelle cemetery. The men were massacred in the Saint Vith area in 1944. USAG Benelux adopted their graves, and five more. The certificates of adoption are displayed in the garrison headquarters as reminders of our military heritage. Many Belgian and Dutch citizens have also adopted graves.

    In addition to the grave adoption program, members of the USAG Benelux community have been officially involved in the numerous ceremonies at the cemeteries for decades with color guard formations, honor platoons, wreath bearers, visits, tours and volunteers. Boy Scouts have also helped lay U.S. and Belgian or Dutch flags by each grave and greeted attendees with programs at each of the ceremonies.

    This year, although the COVID-19 pandemic will only allow for small and restricted official Memorial Day ceremonies, you will still have the opportunity to honor those who rest there.

    In Belgium, the American Overseas Memorial Day Association will enable the public to participate in an online ceremony that will take place 6 p.m. Monday May 25 at www.memorialdayonline.com.

    The ceremony is an interactive experience participants will be able to share with friends in virtual seating areas. Attendees will be able to lay a virtual flower and offer a tribute to the fallen. Veterans will also have their own virtual seating areas.

    In the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander will attend the Memorial Day ceremony Sunday May 24 at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten. The ceremony will not be open to the public but can be followed live on www.nos.nl.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.21.2020
    Date Posted: 05.21.2020 08:11
    Story ID: 370496
    Location: CHIEVRES, WHT, BE 
    Hometown: CHIEVRES, WHT, BE

    Podcast Hits: 0

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