It is Veterans Day here in the US. Many nations remember Veterans, those who died for their country, or the end of WWI on this day. These images are from the Netherlands American Cemetery in The Netherlands near the intersection with Belgium and Germany. More than 8,000 US soldiers who died in WWII are buried here. My father and I were traveling in Europe almost a decade ago and he asked to stop here. His father’s best friend, Jerry Palmento, had been killed in a nearby battle and was buried here.
When we entered the cemetery, we had difficulty figuring out the layout. I had a print-out from the website that gave information about Jerry and the location of his grave but we could not pinpoint the location on the grounds. While my father waited under a tree, I went into the visitor center and approached the information desk. The man asked in a Dutch accent if he could help me. I showed him the paper. He took a moment to read the whole document, not just the location. “This man, he died near here.”, he said. “From the date, I can tell that he was killed in the fighting that liberated this area.” I took a moment to let this sink in. I explained that my grandfather had also fought in this area but was attached to a different division at the time. “He also freed the people of this town.”, he said. “The people in the town here have named streets after these divisions.” “They are forever thankful.”
He told me how to find that grave and I made my way back to my father. Knowing how the cemetery was laid out, we quickly found Jerry’s grave marker. We were a bit surprised to find flowers on it. They had faded, but could not have been there more than a week. Who would have put these here so far from home? We took the images you see here and my father laid some fresh flowers he’d bought that morning on the grave. We walked back to the visitor center and found the man I’d spoken to earlier. We told him that we were surprised to find the flowers and wondered who could have left them. “Oh”, he began, “The people of the town have adopted all of the graves.” “After the war, there was such gratitude that the people decided that each grave must be cared for.” He went on to explain that we had just past the date of the end of the war in Europe and so many people had come to leave flowers or otherwise pay their respects. We walked away both stunned and yet proud that people still recalled what my grandfather’s generation had done more than fifty years prior.