In a Small Dutch Village, Our Dead Soldiers Are Loved

How our fallen are cared for at a cemetery on the outskirts of Margraten
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2015 7:53 AM CDT
Updated May 25, 2015 7:56 AM CDT
In a Small Dutch Village, Our Dead Soldiers Are Loved
People take a picture of a grave after attending a Memorial Day commemoration service in Margraten, southern Netherlands.   (AP Photo/Vincent Jannink)

As many lay wreaths and place flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers this Memorial Day weekend, the Washington Post takes readers to a cemetery far beyond our borders: one in the Dutch village of Margraten, the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands, per the American Battle Monuments Commission. The paper reports on a remarkable display of kindness and respect for Americans who died fighting the Nazis—consideration that continues seven decades after the US selected a fruit orchard on the outskirts of the village of 1,500 as a place to lay some of our dead to rest. The first graves were dug in November 1944, two months after the Nazi occupation of Margraten ended; the next few months saw as many as 500 new bodies arrive daily, swelling the 65-acre Netherlands American Cemetery's population to 18,949, reports the Holland Sentinel.

Many were returned home in 1948; 8,301 remain, among them, four women, per the Sentinel: two Red Cross workers and two flight nurses. Every one of the graves that remain has been adopted, either by a family (most, but not all, of them Dutch), local school, business, or military outfit who visit it on days such as Memorial Day, Christmas, and the first and last day of the soldier's life. Some graves are "passed down" to a family's next generation; there's even a waiting list for those wanting to adopt a grave. Yesterday saw some 6,000 people—including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, notes the AP—attend a ceremony there, as they have done since May 30, 1945. What Rutte had to say: "Thank you to our liberators. Thank you for enabling us to stand here today in freedom, and we bow our heads in memory of the fallen." (In the US, many Holocaust survivors are living "close to desperation.")

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