Memorial Day is a time to honor those men and women who fought
bravely and made the greatest sacrifice one can make to defend liberty -
Too often, we take for granted the ideals for which
our ancestors fought. It may be easy to forget because only 6 percent of
Americans younger than 65 have served in uniform.
constantly remind ourselves that freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be an
inconvenience for us to take a few minutes on Monday to honor those
In all, more than 1.2 million Americans have died in
wars since our country was founded. Millions more were injured. They
were the sons and daughters, grand-children, cousins, nieces, nephews
and parents of tens of millions of people.
Who will remember those
who gave the last full measure of devotion to the cause of justice,
freedom and democracy if not those who live under the protection of
these great principles?
While Memorial Day is for veterans of all
wars, we are paying special tribute to the men and women, mostly in
their 80s and 90s, who served in World War II more than 70 years ago.
short order, the special tributes will fall to veterans of the Korean
War and to the Viet Nam War. As these noble warriors march quietly into
eternity, they don’t ask for your praises, they only ask to be
World War II was about more than the maps, dates and places taught in schools today:
It was about the 17-year-old boys nearly freezing to death in a foxhole
and awakening to hear the rumble of tanks as a massive German offensive
- It was about praying that your plane, perforated by
enemy bullets and shrapnel, could somehow limp across the vastness of
the Pacific Ocean to safety.
- It was about overcoming
gut-wrenching fear to charge a machine-gun bunker after watching its
fanatical defenders massacre your comrades.
- And it was about searching among the dead for your closest friend and wondering “Why him and not me?”
were ordinary men and women, many of them just children, thrust into
extraordinary circumstances. They bore the burden of defending freedom
and our way of life, not just for us but also for most of the world.
did it for their country, they did it for their ideals, and they did it
for their buddy in the next foxhole. And thank God for us they did it
Today, we have the best-trained, best-equipped fighting
forces in the world. The free world looks to America to police the world
and protect them from evil forces.
As we’ve learned the last 15
years, massive power alone will not win the war. It still takes men and
women willing to put their lives in danger. They deserve our unwavering
support and gratitude.
And should they become a casualty in the battle for freedom, they too should be remembered on Memorial Day.
to information from the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), an
independent branch of the Executive Branch of the federal government,
there are 124,909 U.S. war dead interred at cemeteries on foreign soil.
are 30,921 from WWI, 93,238 from WWII and 750 from the Mexican War.
Additionally, 6,177 American veterans and others are interred in the
Mexico City and Corozal American Cemeteries.
It’s interesting to
note, at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten,
Belgium, the 8,301 graves of American soldiers have been adopted by a
Dutch citizen. Each year, approximately 30,000 people come to
participate in ceremonies.
to an article by Judy Miller for an Encyclopedia Britannica blog, the
purpose of adopting graves extends beyond simply taking care of the
physical grave site. Citizens do research about each soldier’s death and
even contact surviving families in the U.S.
The cemetery in
Margraten includes 65.5 acres of farmland that the Netherlands allow the
U.S. to use at no charge. It was established on Nov. 10, 1944, by the
U.S. Ninth Army, it was one of the first to be used for interment of
American soldiers who were killed on German soil.
The site was
liberated on Sept. 13, 1944, by the U.S. First Army. Today, it is one of
24 cemeteries on foreign soil that are administered, operated and
maintained by the ABMC.
According to Peter Schroyen, a Dutch
citizen who adopted the grave of William Dukeman, Jr., the only U.S.
soldier killed in the Battle of the Crossroads, he got interested in the
program when the story was depicted in the movie Band of Brothers.
asked to adopt Dukeman’s grave, but it was already taken. Two years
later, the person caring for the grave passed away and Schroyen got the
call. He has since visited with Dukeman’s surviving relatives in Denver,
CO. He carries Dukeman’s Army photo with him and places it in front of
the cross when visiting the grave.
There is a beautiful chapel and
reflecting pool at the cemetery. About 600,000 visitors visit the
cemetery each year, with 40 percent of them school children. Schroyen
says, “It’s very important we bring school kids. Someone has to take
over our place. We’re very grateful to these soldiers who gave us our