Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I'd like to draw your attention to a set of remarkable photos taken a few years ago by a reader (Katie) and her husband, who were formerly stationed in Germany. Katie learned that Don's uncle, Donald Sowers, who was killed in World War II, was buried in Ardennes American Cemetery in Liege, Belgium. She and her family visited the cemetery and sent these photos.

Later a reader named Kathy left a comment on that blog post which I like to share:

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 sacrifice. 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 Bucharest Romania. The plane was hit at the waist by a land-to-air missile. 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 sacrificed as a group and from above, all of their individual crosses 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 is to those who fly that the larger cross is visible...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 heroes. 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 sacrifice, from the air. This has put many things in perspective for me...I hope it will for you too. --Kathy


A mighty "thank you" to our past and present veterans, whose sacrifices too many of us are willing to overlook, dismiss, or forget.


  1. Thank you for a moving post. I know how upset my parents were at the disrespect for the fallen my parents felt they were given. Their perception was that DeGaulle showed little respect for our fallen. It is good to hear that our heroes are well taken care of.

    1. Bunkerville, I travelled through France two years ago, and I found the wartime cemeteries I visited well cared for and very moving. Thank you, Americans, for fighting in Europe in the two World Wars. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Patrice for this post. This is really what Memorial Day is for, not Mattress or New Car sales but to actually remember and thank those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and liberty of others.

  3. A couple of years ago I looked up my great uncle who was killed in the second world war. My family is Canadian so he was serving in the Royal Air force. I knew he had been shot down during the war but I didn't really know anything other than his name. It was very easy to look up his grave site on the commonwealth graves commission website and I was very surprised to find out that he had passed away, and was buried, in Burma. It truly was a world war.

  4. My husband and I travelled through Harrington and Odessa, Washington today checking out the area, and I was brought to tears by the beautiful Memorial day tributes that was taking place in those little towns. This never happened in the mid-western area we have recently left.

  5. I wish more Americans appreciated these fallen heroes.


  6. My oldest son (21 years old) is a special warfare sailor who will be assigned to a team this summer. And though I am proud of him, I pray on my face every day that he will come home whole and healthy and we can spend Memorial Day together as a family again soon.

  7. I was there 2 years ago - very moving indeed. The entire graveyard is lovingly cared for and we arrived just after a memorial service so each grave was decorated with at least flowers and the proper flag for each country. Just walking among them all and reading the names and dates and ages was almost too much for me.

    I saw a great sign the other day:
    Memorial Day - We don't know them all
    ..... but we owe them all.

    As I left work tonight (on Memorial Day) at 11pm I was greeted by our captain who thanked each of the military folk (former and current). He made it special for us. 8-)

    God Bless,
    Janet in MA

  8. I'm always interested in WW2, especially the air war, because my uncle was kill in a B-24 Liberator on September 9, 1944. He was 22, and had flown six missions, but something went wrong on a night training mission over England and he lost his life. My wife's uncle was killed in action on the ground in Italy December 27, 1944 during an artillery barrage. Well, enough of the sad stuff...just how fast was that calf running when he hit his mother in the rear? God bless, and thanks.