Netherlands American Cemetery

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Understanding Sacrifice: An ABMC Education Project. 

Cherie Redelings

Francis Parker School

San Diego, California

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for! Not only did I tell Gordon’s story and Walter’s story, I met a living hero, Wil Offermans, who has adopted Gordon’s grave. When Wil heard I was coming to give a eulogy for Gordon, he dropped everything and came to meet us. His story reminded me of why we keep the memory of these men and this conflict alive.

Wil’s grandfather was in the Dutch resistance; Wil’s father hid Jews in his home. The father was denounced to the Gestapo and thrown into prison. Two days before he was scheduled to be executed, the Americans came and liberated the prison camp. “Not only that, but America helped rebuild our economy. You never get something of value without paying, but the U.S. set us on our feet again and never took a penny in return. That’s one reason I honor the sacrifice of these men.”

Sometimes the magnitude of that sacrifice has weighed heavily on me. I think of all the things Gordon and Walter were never able to do. They were never able to raise a family. Gordon never returned to college. Walter was never able to see the art he rescued. Neither of them ever hugged their mothers again. Gordon’s mother was never able to speak of her son’s death. How can we process such devastating loss?

I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul: “I am convinced that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us…” The sacrifice is cruel and profound, but it is not the end of the story, and one must always wait until the end of the story!

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Caption: We are rightly saddened by the immense loss of life in World War II. But war also endangers things that give meaning, beauty and joy to life. Walter Huchthausen risked his life to protect some of these things – altarpieces, Torah scrolls, musical scores, and places of worship.

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Caption: The Mourning Woman sculpture at the Netherlands-American cemetery reminds us of the sacrifices made by the families of the fallen.

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Caption: A Dutch crown hangs over the altar at the Netherlands-American cemetery. Wil, who adopted Gordon Chamberlain’s grave, told me that all 8000+ graves at the cemetery are adopted and there is a waiting list.

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.

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