In the small Dutch town of Margraten, more than 8,000 U.S. soldiers are laid to rest in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.
The thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David at the cemetery are a lasting testimony to the sacrifices of Americans during World War II.
The Dutch have never forgotten their sacrifices since. To pay tribute to their liberators, the Dutch seek to pair photos to the soldiers’ names for the 75th anniversary of the end of the war. The help of the American public is needed to locate these photos.
The Faces of Margraten tribute hopes that the soldiers’ photos will help to keep their memory alive. “After all, what is a more powerful way of not forgetting than being able to look at their young faces?
To look them in the eyes? Visitors have said that the photos bring the soldiers back to life,” says Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the organizing Fields of Honor Foundation.
Dutch and U.S. volunteers have collected over 6,500 photos of soldiers memorialized at the cemetery so far. However, photos for about 3,400 soldiers are still missing. “We are confident there are more photos out there, but we need the help of the people to find them.
Just that one person going to the library to look through old newspapers or making a call to a possible relative could make the difference. You might even find a photo in one of those boxes stored in your own attic,” says Vonk.
The tribute has created an online map that shows that the soldiers without a photo came from urban and rural communities all over the United States. People might find soldiers from their own community by browsing the map. The foundation hopes to have found at least 7,500 faces for the 75th anniversary.
Information on how to submit a photo to the tribute can be found on the website: www.thefacesofmargraten.com.
The faces of the soldiers will be on display next to their graves between May 2-6, 2020. It coincides with the national commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the celebration of 75 years of freedom on May 4 and 5. Previous editions of the tribute all drew over 20,000 people.
Ever since 1945, locals have adopted the graves of the soldiers. Sometimes people had even personally known these soldiers, when they were quartered in their homes. The adopters treat the soldiers like their own family, bringing flowers to the graves regularly.
The family members of the deceased soldiers appreciate The respect and honor shown to their loved-ones. Many of those relatives express it is comforting to know their loved ones graves are being looked after. Many long-lasting friendships between Dutch and American families developed through the grave adoption program.
Even younger generations without a connection to the war revisit the sacrifices made 75 years ago. “Guided by President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, these soldiers restored our freedom and democracy.
This freedom has lasted 75 years because they inspired others to continue the fight by other means. Today, young people come and look for guidance as they respond to challenges of our time,” concludes Vonk. Several work as a volunteer for the tribute.
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About Netherlands American Cemetery
Netherlands American Cemetery is one of 26 overseas, American, military cemeteries managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which is an agency of the U.S. federal government. 8,291 soldiers lay to rest in the cemetery. The names of 1,722 missing soldiers have been inscribed at the Walls of the Missing.