American Cemetery at Margraten, NL

The Netherlands American War Cemetary and Memorial in Margraten, Netherlands lies only about 45 minutes from GK. It’s actually only about 10 minutes outside of Valkenburg, so both locations could be easily visited in one day excursion.

 

What really struck me the first time I went, before I’d even gotten out of my car, was how full the parking lot was. This cemetery is visited by Dutch and Germans as much as Americans.

 

In the front a large map stands on the side showing the movements of troops in 1944-5. This is just a small portion above, but the portion that shows the area where we live. It also shows a small white cross, representing the cemetery just to the west of Aachen or SW of the red letter “A” visible in the photo.

 

We all have different reactions to cemeteries.  I’m not someone who usually gets worked up, but this place at Margraten is really special.  There’s something about it that even made my girls quiet.  The entire place was very moving and to see so many people there made it even more touching.   In a world when Americans are often chastised, there is beauty and comfort in the appreciation shown here in the numbers of foreign visitors and this beautifully landscaped plot gifted to us “for perpetuity.”

 

In the foreground, blocking the view of the cemetary grounds behind it, is a large tower with a reflecting pool. To the right and left of the oblong pool are two long stone walls (Court of Honor) etched with the names of the 1,722 Americans whose remains were never found.

 

“Each for his own memorial Earned praise that will never die  
And with it The grandes of all sepulchres  
Not that in which His mortal bones are laid
But a home In the minds of men”

These words are inscribed on the tower behind a bronze statue of a woman with three doves at her shoulder and a tree stump with one leafy branch to her right.

 

Instead of straight rows, the crosses were placed in curves over the 65.5 acres. 8,301 Americans are buried there.

 

“To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.”

Among the many graves are fresh flowers laid at the base of many crosses.  This is the really beautiful part.  These graves aren’t cared for by Americans traveling through, but by Dutch families.  When the cemetery began, there was a program for Dutch to adopt graves. They sent photos and letters to the families of the lost and promised to take care of the graves forever. Every single grave was adopted and there are even stories of families handing down that responsibility to siblings and other family members as they could not longer go. Those actions speak for themselves.

 

Inside the tower, on the side of the graves is a small chapel. The tower was built in a special way to resonate and from that tower, patriotic songs are played in bells at certain times of the day.

 

“O Lord. Support us all the day long until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last.”
“Honor is theirs who knew the path of honor”

GPS Coordinates:  N50 49.260 E5 48.223
Address:  Amerikaanse Begraafplaats 3

6269 Margraten, The Netherlands

Directions:  Directly off of the Rijksweg between Margraten and Cadier En Keer.
Memorial Day Ceremony

Bands, a flyover by the Dutch Royal Air Force, and the presentation of wreaths, this is the biggest ceremony of the year at Margraten.  Don’t miss it.  It is so special.

 

Veteran’s Day Ceremony

The Veteran’s Day Ceremony at the Margraten American War Cemetary isn’t a long, drawn out ceremony, but it recruites local youth to sing and take part and it’s a good time to go and remember.

 

Both the Canadian and American anthems are sung, then some brief introductions, a shorter speech, and then the presentation of colors and wreathes and books of poetry done by elementary students. The half-hour ceremony closes with songs by both Af North Elementary and GK Elementary schools.

 

When the ceremony is over, the classes begin the “peace walk” around the perimeter of the cemetery.

 

As the students returned from the quiet walk, they are each given one long stemmed rose to place by a grave. It’s beautiful to watch how seriously some of these young people will take this ceremony.

 

Sometimes while living in Europe, it’s easy to lose track of these American holidays, but Veteran’s Day is special and even more so if you are able and if you have the chance to visit Margraten on this day,  it’s worth it.


 

Here’s a song that was sung at the ceremony.

Our Heroes Will Live On
In fields and cities, towns and seas,
the ones who faced our foes, who gave their best, their most, their all,
with valor midst their woes.
So cherished for their bravest deeds
upon their courage drawn.
Through tender hearts and memories
our heroes will live on.

We honor them with all we have,
their sacrifice felt deep.
The light of freedom shines this day
for all of us to keep.
When dearest loved ones we recall,
our tears are never gone.
O, rest in peace remembering
our heroes will live on.

O, rest in peace remembering
our heroes will live on.
~Teresa Jennings

One Response to “American Cemetery at Margraten, NL”

  1. Anonymous May 28, 2010 4:48 pm #

    what time is the ceremony at?

Leave a Reply to Anonymous

%d bloggers like this: