An overview of the Memorial Day Ceremony at Margraten American Cemetery in the Netherlands on May 27th, 2018.
In the Netherlands, Memorial Day is always celebrated a day early compared to the United States, on the last Sunday of May.
Like most years I was able to attend the ceremony and when we arrived at the cemetery the sky was just clearing after a massive rainstorm that had just hit the area. At 2:55, 5 minutes before the scheduled start, an announcement was made. Due to a nearby thunderstorm, the course of which they were unable to predict, it was not certain if the ceremony could proceed. The ceremony was delayed until 15:15 when there would be more certainty about the weather. Lucky for all of us the storm went on another course and the ceremony was able to begin.
When the dignitaries enter the cemetery they first bring a salute to the Dutch King and then the national anthems are played. This year the son of one of the Veterans sang the Star Spangled Banner acapella, which I recorded on video. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the sound so I had to cut that out of the final version.
Then followed a number of speeches, which I did not record but which were pretty impressive. The new US ambassador (Pete Hoekstra) is the son of Dutch parents and in his speech, he thanked the Americans on behalf of all the Dutch, but his parents in particular, for their part in liberating the Netherlands. To have an American ambassador standing there thanking the country he represents was pretty amazing.
Our assistant secretary of defense then gave a speech and he first visited the Cemetery in the 1990s immediately after a two-week exercise with the Dutch Army. That visit really put the exercise in perspective for him, yes it was tough and he was miserable but nobody shot on them and they all returned home. Years later he adopted one of the graves on the cemetery, a very nice gesture and it shows that he’s not there just to give a speech, it really meant something for him.
More speeches followed which, I thought, were not as good as the first two, and then the wreath laying began. My brother had the honor to present a wreath on behalf of the Screaming Ducks, a living history association of which I’m a member too. Seeing him out there in front of all those people made me immensely proud!
The ceremony ended with the firing in salute but I was too far away to film that properly. Taps sounded which I was able to film standing in between the graves and then came the jets roaring in for the missing man formation.
Less than 30 minutes after the ceremony ended another massive thunderstorm hit the ceremony, we really lucked out on the weather!