Country Living Series

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ardennes American Cemetery in Liege, Belgium

Quite awhile ago, my husband wrote a piece called Forever Young to memorialize his uncle who died in World War II. Tears spring to my eyes whenever I read this piece, and I've read it many times. My husband never met the man whose name he shares, and who died many years before he was born.

Now here's something unbelievable. One of my readers -- Katie J., whose husband Mike is stationed in Germany -- emailed me a few weeks ago and asked if we would like her to take photos of Don's uncle's burial place in Ardennes American Cemetery in Liege, Belgium.

Oh my gosh, Don was thrilled! Katie's husband, Mike, is the photographer, and these shots are incredibly moving.

Each of these markers represents a life lost, a family shattered, a loved one in mourning... and a world, saved.

Here are the photos, along with some comments by Katie.
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Front side.


This picture shows the beautiful symmetry of the cemetery.


This statue of a youth was included at the cemetery since most of the soldiers were in the prime of their lives.


Don's uncle.


This is a picture of a picture. Mike snapped this when we were in the visitor's center. I had not been able to grasp the cross shape from my view point, so I was very glad for this aerial shot.


These pictures are the back of the Memorial.


Here is a side view of the Memorial. The kids and I are looking at the plaques that list the names of the soldiers who gave their lives yet had no remains to bury.


Here is a closer picture of those plaques.


Here is the info on CPT Darrell Lindsey. There were at least 3 Medal of Honor recipients buried at Ardennes.


Sections A and C (in the background). If you look carefully, you can see a sort of "hiccup" in the crosses where the sidewalk is between the sections. Also you can see the Jewish Stars of David on some of the markers.


Forgot to say in the aerial view, the cemetery was divided into 4 sections, A through D. The sections were divided by the walkways and laid out like this: CD AB (viewed from the "front") Your uncle's cross was in the very first row of the C section, the 28th from the right. This picture is a view of sections B & D with the flag in the back. I know it's not your uncle's section, but I thought the flag in the back was a very somber shot.


Sadly, there are far too many of these crosses. (The inscription says: Here rests in honored glory a Comrade in Arms, known but to God.)


When you walk into the memorial, the altar is the first thing you see. We said a prayer for your Uncle, as well as for all past and current soldiers.


This is the wall above the entry way.


The other three walls inside the Memorial are filled with maps. This is the wall on the right as you enter.


This is the wall on the left as you enter.


The view of the Memorial from your Uncle's marker.


View of the flag from your Uncle's marker.


I had asked Mike to take a picture of your Uncle "among the other soldiers." [Note from Patrice: this is my favorite photo.]


The enormity of lives lost is overwhelming on views like this :(


View of the Memorial from the Flag. (The caretakers were out in force on the day we visited.)

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In the mists of time, it's far too easy to forget the evils that threatened our world during World War II. Belgium -- along with other European countries -- is to be commended for maintaining such a beautiful cemetery and honoring the soldiers who died in their defense. Sometimes these soldiers didn't even have remains to bury. In that respect, Don's uncle was luckier than some.

To Katie and her husband, both Don and I thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for making the time and effort to take these photos. They are magnificent. We are never likely to visit Belgium, much less Liege, so these photos will be passed around to family members on the Sowers side.

And to all the men and women who are serving our country and protecting us from the evils that still threaten our world: THANK YOU.

18 comments:

  1. That was a wonderful post. How kind of Katie and her husband to do such a thing. God Bless them!

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  2. Wow... just, WOW!

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  3. I too have a relative (on my wife's side of the family) buried there. My mother-in-law's brother, also lost in a bomber. I've seen pictures of the cemetary before, but it's always a keen reminder of those who gave all.

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  4. My 20 year old son wants to join the Air Force Reserves. He wants to serve God. I can't really think about it too much, except to pray for guidance. Very somber, meaningful photos for your family tree. What a gift!
    --K in OK <><

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  5. I served in the USArmy. I was lucky enough to be stationed in Germany and retraced Patton's 3rd Army steps and visited the bridge at Remagen. Most of the French along the border with Germany liked us soldiers.
    I don't remember the US general that responded to De Gualle when he ordered the USA out of France in the 60's But I do remember that he asked De Gualle if he wanted the USA to dig up all the cemetaries and take the dead home with us when we left?

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  6. My dad was in Belgium (among several other countries) during WWII. I would love to visit the American cemeteries but probably never will. Thanks so much to Katie and her husband for these beautiful pictures.
    Kay

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  7. How thoughtful of Katie...thanks for sharing the photos.

    Don F

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  8. Exceptionally moving photos. Many thanks to Katie and Mike for the photo essay, and to you and Don for sharing with us all. These pictures are certainly worth thousands of words.

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  9. It does us good to spend a moment remembering with such priceless pictures.

    Thank you. (Sniff.)

    Just Me

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  10. Wow, those pictures bring to life the meaning of the words...freedom isn't free. Those brave souls gave all so that future generations could be assured of their freedom, it is too bad that our (cough) commander in chief doesn't recognize this.

    To veterans (and loved ones) who may read this blog and this post, a very strong thank you. After all, the freedom for Patrice to write this blog, and her readers to comment about what is written is assured by your gift of service to our nation. I for one, appreciate you.

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  11. I agree...WOW WOW WOW!! A huge THANK YOU to Katie and Mike for this exceptional and moving photo essay. What a gift to us all!

    Mara :)

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  12. My grandpa was in Belgium ( among other places) during WW2 It makes me wonder if he knew any of those buried men. It was very nice of that lady to take and send you those pictures. You should send her a cake

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  13. Phyllis (N/W Jersey)October 15, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Thank you for sharing those important pictures.
    My husband's uncle just passed away last month.
    He was a machine gunner on one of the "big boys"
    during the many runs he made over Europe. Uncle Mike never talked much about what he saw and felt. We will never, ever know how brave these men really were. May they all be remembered for their sacrifices .... and be held in our hearts forever. Amen.

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  14. I am at a loss for words right now. Me, my husband, my son, and my daughter have served and or now serving in the U.S. Navy. These pictures that Katie and her husband Mike sent to you and Don are such a wonderful gift and really bring home the horrible price that was paid for freedom. Such a loss of lives cut short in their prime. But these are my brothers-in-arms and I salute their families for the sacrifice that was made for us all. The tears that I shed right now are for those lives such as Technical Sargent Donald P. Sowers that were given so valiantly and with such love and sacrifice to protect the freedoms we now enjoy and hold so dearly. Beautiful young men cut down in their prime--never to achieve their dreams of marrying, to holding their first-born and raise a family, to grow old with their sweet heart--all to uphold all that patriotic Americans hold so dearly. They paid the ultimate of sacrifice! May God keep these valiant young men in His saving Grace. And may God also guide this great country--U.S.A.--back on to the path of its founding principles!

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  15. I searched for 2 years to find my mother's first husband Harold Norris, killed 4/4/44 @ 2:04 PM over Romania. I received a photo of his grave from Belgium and walked over to my mother's home and said, "Mom where is Harold buried?" She said, "New Jersey". I said, "Mom, sit down, we need to talk". Her mouth dropped open when she learned that her first husband was buried in Belgium! He has been there for (then) 65 years. All I started with was his purple heart, his name and service number. It has lead me down a path filled with new compassionate friends and a new understanding of the word sacriface. Harold was an airman, navigator and top turret gunner. His plane the Miasis Dragon was shot down after delivering a fatal blow to an oil refinery in Bucherst Romania. The plane was hit at the waist by a land-to-air missle. The plane nose dipped, the pilot pulled it up, then it went nose-over-tail to the earth in a fireball. 4 crew were "carbonized" and were buried together in one grave by Romanian Monks. Later, in 1949, with dental records my mother provided, the US was able to locate his remains from the others and he was buried for the 9th and final time in Ardennes. The other 3 airmen are still together buried in the US. One of the beautiful things I noticed was that each man's life is symbolized with a marble cross. They all worked and sacraficed as a group and from above, all of their individual cross's make up a larger cross. This collective larger cross can only be seen by people in airplanes and God. 3/5ths of the graves hold the remains from airmen who lost their lives....it is to those who fly that the larger cross is visable...a beautiful way to honor them. The other thing I learned in 2010: the people of Belgium, France and other countries meet and honor our heros. At Ardennes in 2010, there was approximately 100,000 people present, not many were from the USA. It seems that in life, we considered these men to belong to us, but in their death, the european people consider that these men belong to them, whom they thank and honor every year. Most graves have been adopted. Harold's grave was adopted many years ago and now the lady who adopted his grave is teaching her young grand daughter to care for it. She obviously does not want her grand daughter to forget the gratitude she has for the men who lost their lives saving hers. I wrote to a man who was age 7 when the bombs were falling on to his town. He was scared and saw more than a 7 year old should see. He remembers the American forces and he remembers liberation. For those who know what happened, who saw the cruelty and oppression, who had no hope, our US Military saved them, their children and their grand children. The maximum gift was given, freedom was restored at a great price, those receiving the gift are grateful....and other airmen and God can see their collective cross, a memorial for their sacrafice, from the air. This has put many things in perspective for me...I hope it will for you too. Kathy Conner

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    1. Beautifully written, Kathy. Thank you.

      - Patrice

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  16. My goose bumps have goose bumps...

    USN RET

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