Opinion: On Memorial Day, greet them ever with grateful hearts

The U.S. cemetery at Henri-Chapelle in Belgium.

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.

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.”

(Note: This column was originally published May 28, 2010. I wish you a meaningful Memorial Day. Please keep the gravity of the occasion in mind as you post your comments.)

Reader Comments 0

97 comments
skruorangeclown
skruorangeclown

I wonder how all those soldiers who died fighting the Germans in WW II would react to a US President gleefully surrendering control over European affairs and defense to  the Germans?

quickworkbreak
quickworkbreak

I'm looking forward to visiting Flanders Fields while in Belgium this coming August.

breckenridge
breckenridge

On this day I'm remembering my uncle Tommy that I never knew, he died in the Korean War at the age of 22.  And the kid across the street growing up, Ernie, who for some reason was nice to us little brats. After high school Ernie went to work with his dad and older brother in the family welding business.  Uncle Sam, though, had other plans and sent Ernie off to Vietnam, where he died.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

(sigh)

I think next year I'll just close the comments on this one.

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

@Kyle_Wingfield Just go make some champagne popsicles. Ivanka says it's a good way to remember those who gave all on Memorial Day. 

Resist Trump
Resist Trump

 Do you liberals realize you go through life being totally clueless when you get your news from fake blogs like bookman's?


You have no idea.



Oh, but the irony. 



/smh

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Resist Trump You been reading the real news lately, fidel? Don't look now but they are fixing to open a can of whoop a** upon the deep state and it's media monkeys.


You're going down, bigly.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

 Wascatlady 1 hour ago

@AndyManUSA#45 3 day weekends like our "fearless leader" takes?


Fake news^^.


The dude returned from his overseas business trip on Saturday, spent the Lord's Day ripping the monkey media a new one and today he's at Arlington, laying the wreath. Not exactly one of obozo's many clown shows, to say the least. 


Do you liberals realize you go through life being totally clueless when you get your news from fake blogs like bookman's?


You have no idea.

breckenridge
breckenridge

 May 29 - On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel uttered a single sentence that speaks to how fundamentally President Donald Trump has reshaped -- and will continue to reshape -- the world, and America's place in it.

"The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over," Merkel said.


SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@breckenridge  Angela Merkel, what a pathetic joke this woman is the German People certainly haven't been able to depend on her.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@breckenridge  If one believes the USN&WR 2017 Quality of Life rankings the average German citizen (#4) enjoys a higher standard of living than the average US citizen (#7). That's at least partly attributable to the generous social benefits the German government can afford because the US picks up the tab for much of their (and other European nations') defense. 


So it's hardly surprising that Frau Merkel would be alarmed at the prospect of diverting more Euros from supporting la buena vida to the military.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@Starik @breckenridge @SGTGrit  Merkel, waddling around in her pant suits reminds me of  Germany's version of America's Hillary Clinton. Leader of the free world, hardly.

breckenridge
breckenridge

These bozos from the left that claim the founding father were deists must not even understand what deism means.

Such a foolish accusation. I know exactly what Deism is, and have known such for 30 years. It sounds like it's a recent discovery for you.


I also know the Founding Fathers, especially Madison and Jefferson, were totally against the commingling of ecclesiastical and civil matters. 

bu22
bu22

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/05/28/james_rosen_comeys_fbi_broke_its_own_rules__procedures_on_spying_on_americans.html  This is something that these men served in order to prevent.  It is something that should unite Americans on both sides of the aisle. "[House Democratic Leader] Pelosi confessed ignorance of this week's disclosure that the National Security Agency for at least five years under the Obama administration systematically violated Americans' Fourth Amendment rights...

Civil liberties groups said the disclosures should factor into lawmakers' decision at year's end about whether to reauthorize the NSA collection program that witnessed the abuses...

The sheer scale of the 4th Amendment violations is staggering, as was the sternness of the rebuke of the Obama administration by the FISA court, which ordinarily approves 99.9% of the government's request.

As of a few minutes ago, this story had not been covered by the Washington Post, the New York Times or any of the three broadcast networks."

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

On this day, let us remember and honor the memories of those brave men and women who died fighting for these wonderful United States of America.  

And in light of the treasonous traitors currently occupying the White House and controlling both chambers of Congress, let us give a special shout out to those Union soldiers who died defending our great nation against the biggest expression of treason that our land has ever known.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Yes, starik brought up a good point, the clinton crime family foundation INTERCEPTED money that was meant to help poor black people damaged by a hurricane and INSTEAD used the money to finance her failed political campaign. And nobody says a word about it. Ask the Haitians. They will tell you all about it if they weren't being silenced and ignored by the same media that attacks President Trump everyday.


How can you look at yourselves in the mirror?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Can you not see the pos staring back at you?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

There is a very good reason that liberals do not believe in God, they hope that He does not exist. All of the sins that they have committed? Of course they deny Him.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I guarantee you, most VA doctors aren't even available on Memorial Day.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

How much honor do we show our dead veterans by letting the living ones suffer under the care of the Veterans Administration? I know how hollow this holiday is, I know that certain people are just checking the box, absolving themselves. We owe those who risk their lives defending us much more than a moment of silence.


They answered the call for their country, when will WE answer the call?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Starik @AndyManUSA#45 If that is what it takes to solve the problem, then, yes, starik, give them more funding. Only thing is, we have given them more funding for the last two decades and the problem has gotten worse. I wish it was that simple. Apparently, just like everything else, the government doesn't care, isn't accountable, will file a complaint with the union if you ask them to forgo their Memorial Day holiday to help a veteran in need. 


You just don't get it, do you?

Starik
Starik

@AndyManUSA#45 @Starik They expanded VA responsibility way past service connected problems, and didn't adequately fund it.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

 [1] "Because we hold it for 'a fundamental and undeniable truth', that religion or 'the duty which we owe to our Creator' and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence."

[SOURCE: James Madison; (See Footnote-1, Article-1)].


Which is why Madison favored that the government make no law regarding the establishment of religion. Because of Madison, you are free to believe in or to deny the existence of your Creator, and not have the government direct you in what to believe, like they did in England during Madison's time.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@Starik @AndyManUSA#45 How about having the clinton crime family foundation pay their taxes? Churches actually help people that are in need. The clintons? ehehehehe, yeah.

MaryAsicit
MaryAsicit

"Please keep the gravity of the occasion in mind as you post your comments.)"

Well, you tried Kyle.

Good article!

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

These bozos from the left that claim the founding father were deists must not even understand what deism means. Deism is the belief that a God created the Earth, and all that is in it, but left it to it's own devises. I myself, disagree, because I know and love with all my heart the Holy Spirit but I can see where the deists are coming from. Specifically, how can they allow liberals to exist? Why are they not immediately struck by lightening?


But, at least we all agree that Our Heavenly Father created us.


Amen.

MaryAsicit
MaryAsicit

So much for the request to keep the gravity of the day in mind as you post your comment.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@MaryAsicit Others on this thread have expressed opinions that could be considered outside of the boundaries but yet you chose my comment to whine about. I wasn't even the first to go off course. Would you like me to shut up? Do you think our brave soldiers died so that you could tell others to shut up based on opinions you disagree with?


Why did you pick me?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@MaryAsicit The little tyrant has no problem at all with the other commenters who dis the Creator that our brave soldiers prayed to, alone in their foxholes, while they defended your freedom.


What a phony. 

breckenridge
breckenridge

That doesn't make any sense to me. A significant and growing group of people don't believe in religion, or any of the numerous gods, and oppose prayer in public schools, blue laws, and tax exemptions for them.

Actually 68% of Americans are Christians.  That is down from 79% just 11 years ago.  The drop of 1% annually  is expected to continue.

1787, the year the US Constitution was written, was the height of the Enlightenment period in America. 1787 was not an especially religious time in America either.  Just 17% of the population went to church on a weekly basis. 

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

@breckenridge  That decline has been the lefts happiness but the stats haven't factored in the rapid growth of non-denominational churches that teach (hold your breath) the Gospel of Jesus Christ.