Brunssum, Netherlands - On a warm and sunny afternoon the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Superintendent and staff of the Netherlands American Cemetery (Margraten), accompanied by a host of local and regional officials gathered to pay tribute to soldiers laid to rest in the Margraten Cemetery who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.
The King was represented by Major General J. A. van der Louw (Adjutant General to His Majesty the King and Chief of the Military Household), the Honorable Ronald Plasterk (Minister of Interior of the Netherlands) represented the government of the Netherlands, whilst Th. J. F. M. Bovens (King’s Commissioner, Province of Limburg) represented the local government of Limburg; military dignitaries, such as General Curtis M. Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) and Lieutenant General Janusz Adamczak (Chief of Staff JFC Brunssum) were also in attendance.
A number of moving tributes were made that served to remind those attending that freedom comes at a price, sometimes the highest price i.e. the laying down of one’s life for others.
The Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial has a rich historical background. It is situated near the famous Roman Cologne-Boulogne highway used by Caesar during his campaign in the area around 2000 years ago; a highway that was also used by Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, and Kaiser Wilhelm II. In May 1940 the route was used by Hitler's legions as they entered the Low Countries, but it was also the path taken for their withdrawal in September 1944.
The cemetery's tall memorial tower can be seen before reaching the 65.5 acre site. From the cemetery entrance visitors are led to the Court of Honor with its pool reflecting the tower. At the base of the tower facing the reflecting pool is a statue representing a mother grieving her lost son. To the right and left, respectively, are the visitor building and the map room containing three large, engraved operations maps with texts depicting the military operations of the American armed forces in WWII.
Stretching along the sides of the court are Tablets of the Missing on which are recorded 1,722 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
Within the tower is a chapel. The light fixture in the chapel and the altar candelabra and flower bowl were presented by the government of the Netherlands and by the local provincial administration. Beyond the tower is a burial area divided into 16 plots, where rest 8,301 of our military dead, their headstones set in long curves. A wide, tree-lined mall leads to the flagstaff that crowns the crest.
Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office