Memorial Day: Greet them ever with grateful hearts

The train trip from Brussels lasted two hours, with a change at Liege. On most days, Welkenraedt was a sign post you blinked past on the way to attractions in Germany: Cologne, Monschau, the only Wal-Mart for 100 miles. On this Memorial Day, it was a place to stop.

A few dozen miles to the south lay the northernmost bulge from Hitler’s Ardennes Offensive in 1944. A couple of miles to the north, in Henri-Chapelle, lie the remains of 7,992 American soldiers who never made it out of Belgium.

A couple of miles was more than my wife and I had anticipated. A young woman sat behind the ticket window. Was there, we asked her in the mangled French of two recent arrivals, a bus to the cemetery? Perhaps a taxi?

You are Americains?

Oui, oui. (“Yes” twice, in the manner of so many who speak few foreign words with confidence.)

She turned, made a phone call, hung up, told us to wait.

Presently, a man in work clothes appeared and waved us over. (Americains are an easy mark in Welkenraedt.)

We slid onto the bench of his white pickup truck for a ride with a little conversation in French, a little bit of English and a lot of silence. We understood enough to learn that this man was a gardener at the cemetery, and that part of his job was to drive to town to pick up any American visitors.

We arrived, parked, entered the cemetery, and were immediately struck by the simple, still beauty of the grounds he kept — and by the crowd of people we were joining.

In the distance lay rolling hills criss-crossed with trees behind which men had died so that we could stand as free men and women at their graves. In the foreground milled around octogenarian Belgian men, wearing medals and garrison caps, who fought beside them and now returned each year to honor them.

There were wreaths and widows, miniature flags, ambassadors and generals. And the crosses — the rows and rows of angel-white crosses, with some stars of David mixed in — bearing names, dates, unit numbers. Or, sometimes, a line simply stating, “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”

But I remember most clearly the fathers not much older than I, walking with sons or daughters perched on their shoulders, passing down an old lesson about hell and heroism, good and evil, selflessness and senselessness. And most of all, gratitude.

We would visit a different U.S. cemetery each Memorial Day while we lived in Belgium; there are, sadly, enough of them to cover more than a few Mays. There were elements common to each of them and to many of the ceremonies that take place here: military bands and speeches and, if you’re lucky, jets streaking overhead in a missing-man formation.

Other elements were unique, like the eye-wetting sound of Flemish schoolchildren, too young to know many other English words, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” among 368 tombs in Flanders Field.

It’s easier here to visit a Memorial Day service and, in a pinch, to ask for help finding it. There’s no reason not to take your children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews out for a couple of hours to retell those old lessons, as I’ll do with my son when he’s old enough to understand.

We’ll do as the engraving on the Flanders Field monument bids us. Wherever we meet them, we’ll “greet them ever with grateful hearts.”

49 comments Add your comment

Matt

May 28th, 2010
7:14 pm

Thanks Kyle. May God bless the United States of America! I love the last verse of the Start Spangled Banner:

“O Thus be it ever, when free men shall stand, between their loved homes and the war’s desolation; Blessed with victr’y and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land, praise the Pow’r that hath made, and preserved us a nation; Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, “In God is our trust”, and the Start Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave – o’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave”.

Thank God for the men and women who sacrificed that that banner may still wave!

Del

May 28th, 2010
8:54 pm

God Bless you Kyle. Your commentary on this Memorial Day weekend captures what it’s all about, unlike your counterparts on the AJC editorial staff.

Churchill's MOM

May 29th, 2010
7:37 am

I would like to thank my Father, Viet Nam and both of my Grandfathers, WWII.

Michael H. Smith

May 29th, 2010
10:01 am

Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem and James Armistead names seldom heard among some 5,000 or so other “Americans” that few of us ever knew existed or of the great debt of gratitude that is owed to them for the existence of this nation today. They will likely go unnoticed or given any mention again this Memorial Day while other American heroes are celebrated and rightly memorialized.

Part of “OUR” American history that was “intentionally written out” has now been “purposely written in”, if though only a small part of it.

Perhaps Kyle’s counterpart on the AJC editorial staff can take some time off from her busy duties at the ministry of propaganda long enough to write in a few more pages of this “unmentioned American history”?

Without it there may never have been an America, a Star Spangled Banner to sing about, or other heroes to celebrate who fought in other wars for the freedom we all enjoy and the liberty to take so much of it for granted.

http://www.footnote.com/page/747_african_american_patriots_of_the/

Hillbilly Deluxe

May 29th, 2010
11:07 am

I had two close relatives that were in the Battle of the Bulge and one of them was also in the Normandy landing. They were fortunate enough to make it home. Neither of them ever wanted to talk about it but on the rare occasion that they did, they would tell you right quick, that war was something you didn’t want to ever see.

Mrs. Norris

May 29th, 2010
1:02 pm

That was beautiful Kyle. With honor and valor they gave their life that we and our posterity may live in freedom in this great nation. May we never forget their sacrifice and may we remain ever vigliant to protect those freedoms which were purchsed with the blood of so many brave soldiers. May we never allow their sacrifice to be in vain.

Edward

May 29th, 2010
1:04 pm

Let us honor all our veterans, unless they’re gay, of course. (that’s sarcasm, btw)

David Slagle

May 29th, 2010
2:04 pm

Thanks, Kyle. Great tribute. I recently discovered that my 84 year old father had never collected his medals from WW II or Korea. Apparently that (humility) is not uncommon. I tracked down the medals and presented them and it was a long overdue and beautiful day. I encourage others to do the same.

arnold

May 29th, 2010
3:18 pm

Thanks for the article on veterans. It is well written. How many of of your other commentators are veterans? We seem to have a dearth of volunteers to serve the country.

When I was growing up, we had a draft with the admonition we all had to serve our country. I had a father, four uncles, myself and my son all serve honorably in the military. How many of your readers have served this country on active military duty?

Del

May 29th, 2010
6:15 pm

arnold,

USMC 1961-1967,

M-3-6, 2nd Recon, 3rd. Recon

B3

May 29th, 2010
8:21 pm

It pains me to see younger generations who don’t realize the sacrifices that have been made for their freedom. As we have seen with this blog, we may not all agree about politics. However, it is only because of our freedom that we have the right to openly debate the actions of our president, Congress and elected officials. Many other countries punish and kill citizens for dissention.

David

May 29th, 2010
8:56 pm

Enter your comments here

Dose of reality

May 29th, 2010
9:12 pm

So while our troops are off in foreign lands killing innocents for the empire and to secure cheap oil, who is back home actually fighting for freedom in the state houses and against the onslaught of the federal government? The last time american troops fought for our freedom was when the British invaded this country during the war of 1812. Let’s not forget that Pearl Harbor was a Japanese response to our acts of war against them (blockade, bombing of their troops in China, etc.). Hitler declared war on us because we declared war on Japan. Neither country had the ability to invade this country. Hitler couldn’t even invade Britain (even before we entered the war). Of course if Wilson hadn’t been shipping muntitions to Britain in violation of our neutrality treaty with Germany, the Kaiser would not have sunk the Luisitania, WWI might very well have ended in a stalemate, the communist revolution might never have happened, the middle east might still be under Ottoman control, and the Treaty of Versailles would never have been signed or cause the economic conditions that led to Hitler. Every war since has been a war of American agression. Vietnam, Korea (certainly not our war to fight), Grenada, Panama, Iraq (more than enough has been said about this farce), Afghanistan (ok to applaud it now since it is Obama’s war I guess, Pakistan, and the literally hundreds of conflicts we have stuck our nose into despite never having been attacked by any of these folks (don’t even go there with 9-11. They were mostly Saudi’s who all trained here in the states. No Iraqis, no Afghanis.

I certainly feel deep sadness for the men and women who have believed the lies of our government and have signed up to die for our imperial ambitions. What a waste of human life, all to keep the profits up for the likes of Boeing, Lockeed Martin and the like.

But really, who is left home on american soil to defend the freedoms that our government takes away from us on a daily basis? Not a single terrorist, Japanese, German, Iraqi, Pakistani, Afghani, Serbian, Panamanian, or citizen of any other country has EVER taken away a single one of my freedoms.

Every loss of freedom has come at the hands of the people who claim to represent me either in the state house or in Washington D.C. These are people who took an oath to defend the constitution and to uphold my freedoms.

So if we are going to mourn the dead, let’s remember that for all that they gave, the greatest threat to our freedom is, was, and will always be the federal government and the parasites it sends out among us to rob us of our freedom.

Lugnut

May 29th, 2010
10:17 pm

Well, it didn’t take long for the marxist anarchist to show up. Never fails. One can’t even simply say thanks to those who gave all without this occurring. I know – we must allow free speech, even when it is so stupidly and hatefully inspired. That is part of what these great men died for. May God forever grant them the peace they did not know in death.

One tired American teacher

May 29th, 2010
10:27 pm

Well said, Kyle. I am reminded of the student who refused to stand for the playing of the National Anthem during our school commeration of Veterans’ Day last November. He complained his foot hurt and refused even to lean on a rail. I have never been so angry and hope he will one day realize the sacrifice made for his the right to be so blantantly disrespectful. To make a long story short, he did spend some time in the principal’s office for his actions, especially for insubordination.

Scout

May 30th, 2010
12:50 am

Cook, Diaz, Graham …………. The older I get the more I think of you. I will never forget.

Semper Fi !

Scout
India Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines
Vietnam (1967-68)

Scout

May 30th, 2010
12:52 am

Dose of reality:

Sir ……… this is for you:

“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say ‘what should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ … If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!”

Samuel Adams

Dose of reality

May 30th, 2010
10:09 am

Samuel Adams and his fellow founding fathers fought to free us from the tyranny of British rule. Just what exactly was Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Serbia, etc. threatening to do to America?

I have no problem fighting for liberty. In fact that is all I support. My question is about what liberty and what freedom are our troops really fighting for? What they are really fighting for is the profits of the military industrial complex and the international banking community.

Samuel Adams was one of the great american patriots, but he also said:

“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks … It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

I would say that here he is talking about the people who current purport to govern us, not foreign people in foreign lands that cannot invade us or harm us.

And then of course there is John Quincy Adams: “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

Clearly we have forgotten this important lesson to our demise.

Dose of reality

May 30th, 2010
10:11 am

If you can’t tell the difference between fighting for one’s freedom on one’s own shores and fighting foreigners on their land to further the ambitions of the political elite and the commercial interests that are destroying this country, then there is little that will convince you that what we are doing is not about fighting for freedom – certainly not ours anyway.

Road Scholar

May 30th, 2010
11:01 am

Kyle, good column. As I get older, the price our fathers and sons paid becomes more apparent. May other posters honor the fallen’s contributions and put their anger and opinions off for another day.

Michael H. Smith

May 30th, 2010
11:18 am

On some other day Dose of reality many might agree with some of your perspectives. However, keep in mind time and place. This day is to honor the men and women who served in our military without debate on the right or wrong of any wars whether deemed unjust or tragically unavoidable in which they may have fought.

We honor only their service, we pay no homage to war.

Edward

May 30th, 2010
11:27 am

To “tired American teacher”: So punishing someone for not doing what YOU want is the “American Way”, now? You really showed that student, didn’t you? If you can’t get someone to bow down to you, just bully them. Yeah, that’s how we earn respect, huh?

Scout

May 30th, 2010
11:45 am

Dose of Reality:

Three points:

1) “As long as others in the world lack freedom, ours is in jeopardy.” Author Unknown

2) It’s a good thing the French didn’t think like you during our fight for independence …….. they would have stayed home and we would have stayed under British rule.

3) “When civilized man can no longer stand the horror of war and refuses to fight, then we will surely be killed or enslaved by the uncivilized who can.” Author Unknown

oldtimer

May 30th, 2010
3:17 pm

Kyle, This was a good column. This is the time to thankn people for service to our country. It really isn’t done often enough.

jconservative

May 30th, 2010
7:23 pm

Kyle,
Nice Memorial Day column. We have this day to remind us to remember those who died for their country, be they white, black, yellow, red, male, female, gay or straight.

And this thought brings us to the many in this country who would deny to others the right to volunteer to openly serve their country, even give their life for their country.

It seems we never run of problems.

US Army
40th MP Battalion
Korat, Thailand
SGT E5

1968 – 1969

Steel Magnolia

May 30th, 2010
7:32 pm

As I reflect on all of the men and women who have fought and died protecting this country, it seems that immigrants who want to be part of this great nation should,at minimum, apply for citizenship the right way. Living in the United States is not earned by the geography of crossing a border, but by the committment of loving this country enough to die for it.
Kyle, Thank you for a thought provoking column.

No More Progressives!

May 31st, 2010
6:54 am

Dose of reality

May 30th, 2010
10:11 am
If you can’t tell the difference between fighting for one’s freedom on one’s own shores and fighting foreigners on their land…….

So when the Kriegsmarine U-Boats started sinking our merchant marine vessels laden with supplies & bound for England in 1940, we should have opted out, right?

No More Progressives!

May 31st, 2010
6:56 am

Great column, Kyle.

God Bless the selfless Amercian Serviceman & woman, past & present.

Oooo Rah, Scout.

Common Sense

May 31st, 2010
9:07 am

I had the privilege to attend the Memorial Day ceremonies at Henri Chapelle cemetery this year. Though finding the cemetery was, in and of itself, something of an arduous process (we rented a car in Brussels), the experience was worth the trip and something I will always remember.

DEWSTARPATH

May 31st, 2010
2:23 pm

- My thoughts on this Memorial Day are of my
late father and three of his brothers, of whom only one
is still alive, who served together in Korea from ‘50 to ‘53
in the US Air Force, and of whom three returned home –
my uncle Richard did not.

dewstarpath

May 31st, 2010
2:32 pm

Michael H. Smith

May 29th, 2010
10:01 am – Great post. The link was also an
excellent and informative site.

No More Progressives!

May 31st, 2010
6:54 am
– That has to be the first time since I’ve been online
that any poster has ever mentioned the Battle of the Atlantic
in World War II. Excellent point made – not a lot of references
are made about conflicts at sea, or even recent films made –
documentary or otherwise.

Scout

May 31st, 2010
5:25 pm

No More Progressives!:

He is one of those people “kept by better men than himself.” The country is full of the.

FransSusan

June 1st, 2010
1:45 am

Dose of Reality, I completely agree with you. I know that this day is to honor the men and women who served in our military. But we must not lose sight of the fact that our government is not working for us, the U. S. citizens, and will continue to lie to us and sacrifice lives of our military men and women if we’re not mindful of their motives. Dose of Reality stated it perfectly!

neo-Carlinist

June 1st, 2010
4:00 pm

Dose of Reality, well said. As I noted on another blog this morning, we need to have a “day” for all the mercenaries drawing six figure paychecks from Blackwater/XE, et al. Every war since WWII has been a commercial enterprise, which was waged to either facilitate commerce (primarily, but not exclusively, oil), or in some instances, for the sake of war itself (for the profit of arms merchants). the Cold War and the “hot” wars it produced in SE Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), Latin America (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile), , and Europe (Bosnia, Kosovo), were presented/marketed as ideological in nature (communism vs. democracy), but they were jobs programs for the Military-Industrial Complex and nothing more. I had the honor of speaking with a retired USMC officer who said his approach to combat is; “offer your opponent two choices: Peace or Death.” sadly enough, the arms merchants and profiteers prefer the third option; endless war.

No More Progressives!

June 1st, 2010
5:31 pm

dewstarpath

May 31st, 2010
2:32 pm

History will teach us so much, if we’d just listen. And thank you, by the way.

Dose of reality

June 1st, 2010
5:47 pm

Until FDR provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor, the vast majority of Americans wanted us to stay out of WWII. FDR even promised that he would keep us out (every president lies). By picking sides in the conflict and using the merchant marines to transport supplies to England, we had basically declared war on Germany.

Our founding fathers wished that we would take advantage of our great distance from Europe to stay out of their conflicts. We ignored them at our own expense.

NO MORE PROGRESSIVES – yes, history can teach us much, but sadly we don’t bother to learn. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan clearly show us that we cannot even learn to listen to the terrorists when they tell us exactly why they hate us.

So sad to lose so many to so many lies.

No More Progressives!

June 2nd, 2010
1:44 pm

Dose of reality

June 1st, 2010
5:47 pm

The Arabs hate us because of the Crusades (all 9 of them), which began in 1096. Study your history. Read about the 88 years the Crusaders maintained control of Jerusalem; Baldwin the 4th, The Battle of Hattin, the Knights Templars & Hospitallers, for starters. The current situation in the middle east has nothing to do with Pakistan, which has only existed since 1948, or Iraq. They are motivated by Islam and revenge.

No More Progressives!

June 2nd, 2010
1:51 pm

As for provoking the Japanese, I say hogwash. The Japanese invaded Manchuria in Sept. 1931, giving FDR 10 full years to observe the Imperial actions of Japan. It is recorded that the Japanese JN12 code was sufficiently decoded to know that an attack on US assets in the pacific coming in late 1941; FDR knew this and did nothing, costing us Pearl Harbor.

You’re right in one respect; he lied.

neo-Carlinist

June 2nd, 2010
5:13 pm

No More Progressives, I don’t think you can include all “Arabs” in your summary of why they hate us. More recently (than the Crusades), the US/UK orchestrated coup in Iran (they’re Persians, not Arabs) to prevent the Mossadeq adminsitration from nationalizing Iranian oil fields, followed by the efforts of U.S. installed puppet “Shah” to modernize Iran, alienated even moderate Muslims. The Islam/Christianity/Judaism love/hate triangle is part of the equation, but the current mess – is as much (or more) political revenge as anything.

No More Progressives!

June 3rd, 2010
6:30 am

I quite agree, neo. My premis is that the primary source of angst among the truly Arab world was the Crusades. The Balfour Agreement, the Shah and many more issues certainly fueled the fire. To this day, story-tellers in Arab cafes reiterate the great heroism & skill of Saladin, defeating the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin. I think the Persians/Iranians are latecomers to the party, not wanting to be noticed by ommission.

Michael H. Smith

June 3rd, 2010
7:23 pm

Anybody seen Kyle?

Note to Kyle

June 3rd, 2010
10:00 pm

Kyle

If you are to run a successful blog you may want to update it everyday.

No More Progressives!

June 4th, 2010
10:28 am

Big Sis is censoring Kyle? Could it be?

Intown

June 4th, 2010
11:53 am

Appropriate column for Memorial Day.

N Lawson

June 4th, 2010
2:20 pm

Thank you Kyle for a wonderful article. My father is buried at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and I had the great honor to be present this year along with my sister and other family members for Memorial Day. My sister and I were the presenters of the wreath for the organization AWON (American WWII Orphans Network). There were 183,000 children orphaned by WWII. See http://WWW.AWON.org for more information.

mit

June 4th, 2010
3:45 pm

hey slacker, write a new column already. it was a three day weekend, not the whole week.

Hukos

June 6th, 2010
7:11 am

Great article Kyle. I’m kind of reminded of the song “The Longest Day” by Iron Maiden (Yes, the very same band that 99% of people hate for the song “The Number of the Beast”, never mind the fact the song is about a nightmare, reading the lyrics points this out). Its more cynical than the article, but it takes the point of several soldiers who are about to plunge into the Battle of Normandy and considering the losses in that battle, its appropriate. Still, it reminds me of the instrumental section that brings up imagery of the brave soldiers (Represented by the beautiful melodic sections) and the ugliness of war (Represented by the chaotic drum solos). I’m ranting, but the point is that both are rather inspirational.

Anyway, great article Kyle.

dewstarpath

June 6th, 2010
12:43 pm

You’re welcome, No More Progressives.

@@

June 6th, 2010
10:55 pm

Beautiful tribute to the most noble among us, Kyle.

You won’t be insulted if I thank THEM before you, would ‘ya? Humility becomes us all.

Did they ever find out who did this:

In March 2003, at one of the largest British war cemeteries in northern France, hate-filled comments were sprayed in red paint over a monument to Britain’s dead from World War I. The defacement was removed by the afternoon of the day it was discovered, but not before a few busloads of visitors had seen it. Along with “Rosbifs (British) go home! Saddam Hussein will win and spill your blood” and “Death to the Yankees,” was painted the comment that would spark the rumor”: “Dig up your garbage. It is fouling our soil.”

Try as I may, I can’t begin to imagine the kind of hatred that would prompt such total disregard.