Hampton Roads Base US Submarine Veterans Inc.
Foundation for Adopting Graves
American Cemetery Margraten
Recently I became aware of a group who similarly, closely resembling the USSVI Creed, makes every effort: "To perpetuate the memory of those who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country." The subtle difference is both heartwarming and a very unique phenomenon, that bears the awareness and recognition of all Americans.
Article Published "American Submariner" Issue 3 2019
Legacy of Liberty
By: Sam Stevens STS1/SS USN Ret.
June 6th 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of World War II, a global conflict that took so many young American soldiers and sailors to distant battlefields far from home. Approximately 16,000,000 Americans served in various locations around the world during the war, from Japan to South Africa. Among them, 2,000,000 Americans carried the fight directly to Europe and Hitler’s doorstep, freeing allied and politically neutral, occupied countries along the way. Many Americans whom would never return.
Yet today, with each passing year, the number of those Americans with first person knowledge of the war’s human impact dwindles. Time, like those muddied boots of an infantry soldier, marches on. Yet, there is one corner of the world that will never forget the Americans that came to the aid of their country and sacrificed everything.
Hollywood movies rarely acknowledged the stark reality of that war. That not all who went away to defend liberty, came back home. What happened to all those that fell on battlefields so far away? In the midst of a war fought on so many fronts, during a time when every resource was strained, it was seemingly impossible to allocate yet more resources to bring all the fallen back home to their loved ones. It is for the families of those lost that this story needs to be told and retold. The families who gave so much to that war far away too. Those soldiers were spouses, fathers, sons and brothers to so many. Their individual sacrifices were felt by thousands back at home.
That brings us to the present… In a quiet place far from here, the sun also rises with silent consistency over hallowed ground. Dawn breaks over a place in one of the southernmost reaches of the Netherlands. The American Cemetery at Margraten NL is a cemetery unique in all the world. After the battles that freed the Netherlands, more than 17,000 American war dead were by necessity, laid to rest there. Though some were later brought home by families who could afford the expense, more than 10,000 American soldiers remain interred at the cemetery at Margraten today.
So what about the families of those soldiers who lost their lives, and remained nearby to the place where they fell? How did those family members cope with the reality never seeing their loved one again? It is on behalf of those families, to assure them their loved ones have been cared for and remembered for their sacrifice so far from home, across these many years.
This Legacy of Liberty is an obvious acknowledgement of the sacrifices of our fallen American soldiers, made on behalf of a distant people. Though today, the world is a much smaller place. Time and forgetfulness threatens to replace the barriers of physical distances between North America and the far reaches of Europe. Families who may as yet be unaware of the legacy of care provided by those who benefited from the sacrifices made by others. As a people, they’ve chosen a method of repayment for those sacrifices in a most special and meaningful way. The Dutch register to adopt a deceased American serviceman interred at Margraten. Those adoptive participants have been acknowledging their freedom by preserving the memory of their liberators.
Since the war, the Dutch have taught their young about the hardships and the history of the invasion endured at the hands of the Nazis. But there is also another story to teach that has been passed down. Stories of the individual soldiers themselves. Adoption includes the expectation that the adoptive registrant tend the grave and keep the memory of their service member alive. An expectation to learn all they may about what they have come to view as their “assigned liberator”. Some registrants have even traveled to the US to meet surviving family members, to learn ‘the story of their soldier’ first hand. What began in 1945 with a soldier’s internment beneath a white stone cross bearing their name, rank, unit, and date of passing, is seen by the adoptee as merely their soldier’s beginning, not their end. In all the world, Margraten American Cemetery is the only place where such continuing care has been given to the fallen warriors of another country.
For more information on the program View the video below
(Are YOU a member of a Sub Vets Base and wish to acknowledge the Dutch participants during this 75 year anniversary of a job that continues to be “Well done?” View the video just below, and then inform your leadership of the point of contact address beyond)
Upon learning of the program, My contact: Ton Hermes, Chairman: Foundation for Adopting Graves American Cemetery Margraten, quickly helped me understand the scope of my personal hope to Thank the Dutch people. (Primarily, as mentioned, the fact that there are over 10,000 soldiers interred there and so just as many adoptees.) A request for names/email addresses could not be met for obvious reasons, but an alternate solution was quickly suggested by the director. That an article addressed to them all, could serve well as a method to thank those Dutch people who are caring for those many Americans, our lost, via the American Submariner magazine: this then has been my attempt to thank them all.
USSVI.org Bases around the country in support of our Creed who may wish to participate in this “Campaign of Thanks” to the Dutch people may do so by mailing a card signed by base membership to the address below.
Foundation for Adopting Graves American Cemetery Margraten
PO Box 22
6269 ZG Margraten