Just outside of Luxembourg city is the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial. Aaron and I made sure to stop here on our way home. It was established on December 29, 1944 by the 609th Quartermaster Company of the US Army when American troops began burying those lost in battle. Today, over 5,000 service men and women have the cemetery as their final resting place. In 1951, the land on which the cemetery rest was signed over to the US for their use in perpetuity.
The cemetery and memorial are operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. They are the guardians of permanent cemeteries overseas and maintain war memorials both inside and outside of American borders. They are responsible 25 cemeteries and 26 monuments in 16 countries around the world.
At the entrance, there is a beautiful memorial chapel and two large walls facing each other. On these walls are maps depicting the detailed movements of the Battle of the Bulge and the major movements in Western Europe. On the reverse of each wall is a list of 371 service members lost in battle. Since their inscription 12 have been recovered and small, brass rosettes denote these individuals.
Perhaps the most famous of those buried here is General George S. Patton. He was well known for his militaristic prowess and strategic genius. Just after the end of the war, he was killed in a car accident in Mannheim, not too far from where we currently live. His funeral was held in Heidelberg after which he was laid to rest in the American cemetery in Luxembourg at his request ''to be buried with his men.''
The cemetery is a sobering reminder of everything that Americans sacrificed during the war. More than once, I felt the prickle of tears for all those families that lose their sons and for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. The names may be unknown to many who visit, but what they did, and what they lost, is not.
While there, the clock struck noon. While unremarkable, it was what came after the 12 dongs that caught me slightly off guard. It was the song, America The Beautiful, playing on the bells. On a cloudy and cold February day, it was a reminder of everything that Americans hold dear.
I have been to Arlington National Cemetery and the Honolulu Memorial and it never ceases to be an incredibly humbling experience, to see the identical white headstones, marking the final resting place of all those who gave their lives so that we might remain a free nation. I think more Americans need to visit these places to remember what America is all about, and the high cost that must be paid in order to keep that freedom.
Just a little ways down the street, only about a kilometer and a half away from the Luxembourg American Military Cemetery, is the German military cemetery. After the battle, Americans began to bury not only their own lost comrades, but also those of the German army. This cemetery contains over 10,000 graves from those who lost their life. Over 5,000 were placed there by Americans. After the war, the German War Graves Commission moved over 4,800 remains from over 150 other cemeteries throughout Luxembourg. Most of these were mass graves, with very little information about who the remains belonged to. The Commission set out to identify as many of the remains as possible and were able to positively identify over 80% of them. This cemetery is the first military cemetery for Germans outside of Germany and was inaugurated in 1955. The last person to be buried here was an unknown soldier discovered in the forest near Wiltz in 2007.