One thing that was on my “must do” list for living abroad was to visit at least one of the American cemeteries over here. They are scattered throughout Europe, but the closest to us is located in Luxembourg and is where General Patton was laid to rest.
Fil was supposed to be in Poland so I toyed with the idea of spending the weekend in Normandy, but at the last minute he was relieved from the mission. With Fil home I didn’t want to go on an overnight trip, but part of his relief meant that he would be one of the few behind, and working through the weekends. After two weeks of working through the weekends he finally swung a Saturday off and got to fish one last time with his good friend who is leaving for Oregon this upcoming week. While he was relaxing and enjoying time on the water Brock and I visited our first American monument in Europe.
Colors were posted by Luxembourgian veterans, remarks were made by the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, David McKean, the Minister of Justice, Felix Braz, and Commander of the U.S. 3rd Air force out of Ramstein, Deutschland, LTG Timothy Ray. I wish I could say that I heard everything they said, but Brock wasn’t able to stay put for the hour long ceremony and the speaker system only reached so far. But I could faintly hear Mr. McKean speak of the stories of some of the men laid to rest there. The official party laid 7 wreaths, followed by a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps and the National Anthems by Luxembourg Army Band.
During most of the remarks Brock and I walked the field. Within the 50.5 acres, 5,076 headstones mark the grave of our brave soldiers, including 101 unknown, 22 sets of brothers, and one female army nurse. Seeing the mass of perfectly lined markers for so many young men is something I am struggling to put words to. You can read and learn about the numbers, but reading the names, unit, home state and death date on the markers sends an eerie reminder of what the personal loss was. Most of these young men were sons but not yet fathers. Most will never be visited by family members. I felt sad but also pride. Proud of them and proud that they are being taken care of so well, so far from home. I really want to stress that because while there were a number of Americans present, many more Luxembourgians were remembering the U.S. fallen.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a tall chapel. On either side are two large walls listing the 371 Missing In Action who were never recovered, and on the back of the walls, maps of the Ardennes and Rhineland campaigns. From the map I learned that 94th DIV would have passed right through our town of Hoppstadten-Weiersbach.
General George S. Patton Jr. is laid to rest between the American and Luxembourg flags at the top of the field, overlooking the grave sites.
“All who shall hereafter live in freedom will be here reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the couse for which they died shall live eternally”
—General Dwight D. Eisenhower