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75 years in freedom, 7,500 faces

Both 2019 and 2020 will be remarkable years. During these years, people from all over the world will commemorate and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The end of the war in the Netherlands came closer when U.S. soldiers crossed the border near the town of Mesch on September 12, 1944, which became the first town to be liberated. However, it would take until May 5, 1945 before the country was fully liberated. And that liberation came at a heavy price for those who fought for it. That is why we will say thank you to our American liberators who have been buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in the town of Margrten. We pay tribute to them by decorating their graves and names on the Walls of the Missing with a photo. We gave our liberators our face. And for this 75th anniversary, we are looking for at least 7,500 faces. Join us in our quest and help to put a face to those who sacrificed their all for our freedom.

 

Letter Justine Camps

Justine Camps (18) from Wijlre wrote a letter to one of the unknown soldiers buried in the Margraten cemetery. "A while ago I visited the American Cemetery in Margraten. I was touched by the fact that there always will be soldiers who will not be identified, who will remain unknown. That is why I decided to write this letter." Justine read the letter during the ceremony.

Dear soldier,

A month ago I was standing in front of a white, marble cross. It was surrounded by many others on a huge lawn, all the same white, all the same marble, in neat straight lines, with the star of David in between them once in a while. There was a rose or a flag in front of some of these graves. On the end of the lawn, a high tower rose up into the sky. All the graves were pointed towards this tower, which could be distinguished in the landscape from great distance. The serene pond behind the tower reflected the blue of the heavens. Next to the pond were two long walls. They had names written all over them, the names of those who were never found. Just a few names had a rosette behind them, the sign that these soldiers later got a resting place. Behind the graves on the lawn the flag of the United States waved in the wind. But between all that symmetry and harmony I suddenly noticed something strange. The white marble cross in front of me did not carry a name. It said that the name of the fallen soldier buried here was known but to god. You are a soldier without a name, and there between all your comrades you are buried, far away from home.

 DSC7944 klYour name will always be a mystery. All the others do have one. A name gives you a story, a past. We can search for the soldiers who have a name on their grave. We can give them a face, show a picture of the man hidden behind that white grave, get an idea about the story that he carries with him and the role he played in the liberation of the occupied areas in Europe during the Second World War. There are so many questions that remain unanswered. Who are you and where are you from? What was your age? What was your rank? How and where did you die? Who did you leave behind when you came to Europe and do they know what happened to you? Did you go to college, did you have a job that you went to every day, what did you do in your free time? I can keep on asking questions, but I am afraid that they will remain unanswered.

I am 18 years old. I live in a free country where I can say and think what I want. I have the possibility to pursue a higher education and work on my future. In this country I have freedom, and I use the word as if it is the most self-evident thing there is. We all use the word as if we know what it is to lose it and what it is like to live without it. But there are so many countries where these things are not as easy as they are in Holland. Where people are being punished for thinking something that is not the truth according to somebody else. Where people are being punished because they do not conform to the norm. Where girls can not even go to school and do not have the chance to pursue a higher education at all. Where freedom is something that is not self-evident. But freedom has not always been there, for it was taken away from Holland and many other countries during the Second World War. That freedom was given back to us, and the people who have experienced this time of oppression between 1940-1945 can tell us what it feels like to lose your freedom. And perhaps their stories can help us understand what it must be like to live without freedom for the people who live in oppressed countries nowadays.

What I know about you is that you died to return the freedom to my country and that you and many others from the United States and other allied countries know what I just spoke about. You went through a tough training, came to Holland and did what was asked of you. The people who lived here were probably total strangers to you. You sacrificed yourself during an enormous mission that cost you your life as well as it cost the lives of many others. And now you are here, buried in Margraten. I suddenly come to the conclusion that you do have a story. It is about peace, commemoration and being thankful. You are part of one large story, the story about the liberation of occupied Europe.

Now it is our duty to commemorate what you and your comrades did for our country. I was raised in a different generation, but I know that even 70 years later we still think that it is important to remember what happened during the Second World War. We read about this part of history and listen to the stories of the people who were present and who saw and felt. We visit the places where heavy fighting happened and the places where those who were part of it find their last resting place. What happened during the Second World War has to be an example for us of what the world should not look like and should make us say: This can never, never happen again. Lets all do our very best to maintain peace and freedom, for many generations to come.
Thanks for bringing peace back to my country, this letter is for you.

Justine Camps.

Photo The Faces of Margraten//Municipality of Eijsden-Margraten, Sluysmans Photography

Donate

Would you like to contribute to keeping the memory alive? By donating just 10 dollars, you will enable us to give a face to one soldier. You can directly donate via your credit card or PayPal by clicking the button below. Click here if you want to read more. Thank you for your support!

Mollie

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