Carroll County Career and Technology Center
Today, we traveled to the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium. We took the bus from our hotel in Maastricht, Netherlands and traveled through the industrial city of Liége, Belgium before arriving to the cemetery. As we entered the empty cemetery on this cloudy morning, a solemn mood filled the air as you could look out on the 5,311 headstones to see the sacrifice our soldiers made throughout the latter portion of World War II.
After meeting with cemetery associate Vincent Joris, we learned that while this cemetery is the final resting place for soldiers who primarily fell during the Battle of the Bulge, and the final push into Germany, it is unique among all of the American World War II cemeteries in that it contains burials from every major battle of World War II, including the Pacific. The large square memorial standing at the entrance of the cemetery houses the cemetery chapel, an imposing structure with a large eagle and three figures representing Justice, Liberty, and Truth. Over the entrance to the chapel are thirteen stars representing the original colonies of the United States. Inside the chapel large maps depict the pathway of Allied forces throughout Western Europe as well as 24 images bordering the maps depicting different people responsible for Allied success. Walking around the chapel, one passes by the tablets of the missing where 462 names are marked at the entrance of the Latin cross shaped cemetery.
Making our way into the cemetery, we visited the graves of James Vrtatko, Charles Crossley, and Charles Hewes, who were ordinary men called upon to do extraordinary things. We learned not only of their sacrifice, but also of the sacrifice of other regular citizens who gave their lives in the war effort, both from the United States and Germany. This sacrifice can be represented in the statue of “Youth” that stands at the east end of the cemetery and reminds us that those who are buried in Ardennes were in the prime of their lives. That the Ardennes American Cemetery remains open to burials of remains still being discovered from World War II is a haunting reminder that despite the 70 years since VE day, the war still lacks closure for many families.
Applications are currently being accepted for World War II in the Mediterranean. Click here for more information and an application. The application deadline is midnight on Friday, September 4, 2015.