Memorial Day in the US is a very important day for all who have lost family members and friends in the conflicts over the years. But what happens in the sometimes far away countries that they are buried in?
I can tell you about something unique that takes place in the Netherlands each year.
Each year there is a Memorial Day service on the Sunday before Memorial Day at the American Military cemetery in Margraten.
In the American Military Cemetery 8302 fallen soldiers are buried.
It is a very special service, which is attended by military personnel both American and Dutch, as well as officials from the Netherlands and the USA.
One thing is remarkable though; there are a lot of civilians present who all have adopted one or more graves.
The Ninth American Army opened the cemetery for use on 10 November 1944.
Around that time an American army Captain asked a nearby family if they would place flowers and tend to the grave of a friend who fell and was buried in Margraten, He would not be able to do so himself, because he and his unit were pulling out in order to advance further into Germany.
The family complied to his wishes and with that started a tradition which is kept in the region ever since.
Because relatives or friends are mostly unable to visit the graves due to the distance, families from the region, and even from as far as 300 km away adopted one or more graves and will visit regularly, place flowers as if the soldier or airman in question was one of their own. At the present time all 8301 graves are adopted as well as the 1722 names of missing soldiers on the memorial wall.
Even in this time, when the people who started the tradition are progressing in age and passing on them selves, the adopted graves are passed on to their children and grandchildren, who keep the tradition alive.
I believe is a way for the Dutch to say Thank you, and even though they are fallen they will never be forgotten.