In 2009, I visited the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium where many of the American casualities suffered in the Hürtgen Forest and Ardennes battles are buried. It was a Saturday near Veterans Day. As I arrived, a small group of civilians were just completing some unscheduled ceremony. After they stowed their flags and musical instruments into their cars, they moved onto the platform that overlooks the grave plots.
I approached one gentleman, asked if he spoke English (which, of course, he did), and asked about the ceremony we had just missed. It seems that his small group drove 90 miles to the American Cemetery to pay their respects to American war dead. At that point he took my hand firmly within his grasp and said “Thank you. We will never forget what you did to liberate us.” I shook his hand – but only on behalf of the men in the valley that spread out below us.
© 2012 French Battlefields
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