[March 18, 2019] A few days ago, I attended a presentation at a local Veterans get-together. An Army veteran gave a presentation on cemeteries in Europe and what they meant to him. I was surprised to hear that his father, killed during World War II, was buried in the Margraten Cemetery, Netherlands.
The 8,301 American soldiers buried at Margraten and the 1,722 listed as Missing in Action, were mostly part of Operation Market Garden, September 17-27, 1944. Originally, over 17,000 Americans were buried here, but over the 75 years since, most of the fallen were repatriated to the United States at the request of relatives.
More surprising to all of us veterans at the presentation, was the adopt-a-grave program of the Dutch people of Margraten and surrounding communities. A program was set up in 1945 where a family can adopt the grave of an American soldier. It is my understandings that not only are all the graves “adopted” but that there is a large waiting list. Often, the responsibility of a family member who continues to honor these soldiers is passed down to the next generation.
It shows the continuous commitment of the Dutch to those who gave their lives for the freedom of the Dutch. While the U.S. oversees this in our American Battle Monuments Commission (as approved by the U.S. Congress), it is the Dutch Stichting Adoptie Graven Amerikaanse Begraafplaats Margraten that maintains the cemetery. You can find out whether the grave or the name of your loved one buried or memorialized in Margraten has been adopted through their website.1
The admiration shown by the Dutch is an example of a level of respect not often encountered today. The Dutch people are to be commended for their effort, and we should let them know. We are all honored by their actions.