Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Memorial Day May 29, 2005
Remarks, as prepared
by Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel, Sunday, May 29, 2005
Veterans, Friends, Children:
On the 8th day of May, the
60th anniversary of V-E Day, President George W. Bush became the first American
President to visit Margraten. He thanked the Dutch people for adopting every
grave - for treating "our men and women like your sons and daughters."
The President of the United States, a child of "the Greatest Generation," looked over the crosses and the stars and perhaps thought of his own father.... a navy combat pilot at 18, - shot down at sea.
I thought of my father, too. A Major in the army who fought and lived - who sat here beside me just three years ago.
"There is no power like the power of freedom," the President said, "and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom!"
He spoke of bringing freedom and hope to places where it has long been denied.
He spoke of "A New
Generation" as dedicated to liberty as "the Greatest Generation"-
we honor today.
The Sioux Indians from the wind-swept Northern Plains of America have a saying -
"With all things and all beings, we are as one."
And so we are with each
man and the four women who rest in the green of Margraten.
We cannot look, we cannot walk amongst the crosses and the stars without thinking of names and places and mothers and fathers and young, young men – We cannot look – we cannot walk without asking ourselves - who were they?
What could they have become?
A husband, a father, a grandfather, a teacher, a farmer - the best auto mechanic ever!
We cannot look – we cannot walk amongst the crosses and the stars without thinking - - they stand so pure, so white. Sentinels who whisper "Freedom is not free!"
This land is not silent in the sun or the wind or the rain.
Every letter of every name on every cross or star or the Wall of the Missing.... speaks!
And we must listen!
Joe and Abe and John and Tom are talking... 'Never forget why we lie here.'
We were so young - we didn't plan to die - but we knew - if we weren't - if we weren't willing to die - there would be nothing to live for!!
"With all things and
all beings, we are as one."
And so these boys and men and four women came from the American continent across the rolling Atlantic, from Kansas and Utah and Texas and California, from Wyoming and Illinois and Alabama and New Jersey - from all the states and territories of the United States.
They were an ocean away
from the Hell that was Europe in those torn Septembers and incendiary Mays!
They were an ocean away, but they chose to come! They couldn't wait to come!
"To get it over over there!"
Most of them were just kids, 17-18–20. But they knew what freedom was all about....
They learned it in the Kansas summer on a tractor in the sun.
They learned it playing stick ball on a New York City street.
They learned it from a Navajo Indian on a roadside in New Mexico They learned it strumming on a banjo in a club in New Orleans....
And thousands and thousands
of them would never have a wrinkle or a gray hair or even much of a beard. And
others - the lucky ones would go home and marry and raise their own kids.
And live to watch their young man's hair turn gray, then white.
And live to hear kids who look like "the kids they used to be" say -"Grandpa!"
We call them simply " The Vets" They're back today. They always come back!
We Salute You!
Though Our Eyes Can Never
See - What Yours Can Never Forget, "We are as One!"
This afternoon, after the
wreaths are placed and we look to the lonely clouds for the airman forever -
We will watch you rise and walk amongst the Crosses and the Stars...
To visit Joe or Tom or Tony
We'll see your tears that time has bottled, and perhaps, tears will well up in our eyes too. This Land is not silent in the sun or the wind or the rain.
8,301 lives speak..
Brothers lying - side by side - forty times! Speak....
106 lives "Known Only Unto God," speak
1,722 missing lives speak.....
Margraten is 10,023 voices.
Sentinels in pure white - who whisper "Freedom is not free!"
We gave you back the green
of spring - the lilacs, the irises, the wild poppies
We were so young, but we knew what the Sioux of the wind-swept Northern Plains of America know -
"With all things and all beings, we are as one!"
At the dedication of Margraten in 1960 - Queen Juliana said what we still feel today - " They will always abide with us."
The crosses and the stars
The sentinels, so pure, so white - "whisper"
"Freedom is not free!"
"No man is free, unless every man is free!"
text as presented by the U.S. Embassy to the Netherlands website