AWC Going Dutch May_June 2019


The monthly magazine of the American Women's Club of The Hague

Come to Memorial Day at Margraten

by Roberta Enschede

Margraten American Cemetery lies in the southernmost tip of the Netherlands, in the

rolling Limburg countryside, amidst oak and maple trees, dark hawthorn hedges and

Polyantha roses. In the month of May, pink and maroon velvet rhododendrons are in

glorious bloom.

The new AWC Website is now up and running!

Please visit

for all of your Club-related needs:

Payment of Membership dues, registration for activities and events, Membership

directory, etc.

If you have any questions about the website, please contact

The Mourning Woman, a bronze sculpture, stands by a reflecting pool with doves and a

new shoot from a war-ravaged tree. Her message is on the stone upon which she stands, “New

life from war’s destruction proclaims man’s immortality and hope for peace.”

There is a glistening white marble tower behind the Mourning Woman chiseled with the

ancient words of Pericles of Athens, “Each for his own memorial earned praise that will never

die and with it the grandest of all sepulchers, not that in which his mortal bones are laid, but a

home in the minds of men.”

Margraten is beautiful, if you can call such a sad place beautiful. It’s trimmed, meticulous,

eternal. 8,301 white marble crosses and Stars of David stand on its land and 1,722 names are

inscribed on the Wall of the Missing. 10,023 lives tell us over and over, “Freedom is not free!

Freedom is not free.”

Margraten is overwhelming. It jumbles your thoughts. One question comes, and another

and another. You find yourself gazing over the glistening white marble of the crosses and the

stars, asking, “Why? Why?” And “why” again! “Was it all worth it? What did we learn?”

Questions keep coming: Why did they have to die so young? Why did they have to die so

hard? Why did they have to die so far from home—Texas, New York, Kansas, everywhere?

Who got the telegram, “The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your

(son, husband, brother, father) was killed in action”? Who hung a Gold Star flag in another

window of America?

Margraten tells you what you already know. Most of them probably never had a trace of

white in their thick boy hair. Most of them didn’t live long enough to be a farmer, a firefighter,

an engineer, an auto mechanic, a doctor, a lawyer, the neighborhood grocer, a ball player, a

teacher, a preacher, a father, a husband. And those who did live, the veterans who came home,

and married, and worked, and raised a family, and grew old lived with memories of war and

fallen friends forever 18 or 19 or 20 years old.

Every Memorial Day those veterans return to Margraten to say, “Hello.” There are fewer

and fewer these days. You know them when you see them. Some wear their hats, ribbons, medals,

and some, green jackets. After the ceremony, they usually gather in little groups between

the crosses and the stars. They laugh and poke fun, then you watch them get serious and know

they’re telling their soldier stories. Stories of a slogging, sleepless world of men and boys,

determined to do what had to be done. Stories of friends they lost so long ago.


The 104th Infantry, the Timberwolves, with their green jackets, used to come back every

year. Now, most of them are gone. There was Glenn, an architect from Kansas who said, “I

gotta go say hello,” broke away from the little group, ambled among the crosses and the stars

and a few minutes later ambled back. “I said Hello.” Tears filled up his crusty old eyes. There

was Hy Davis, the Jewish jeweler from California who used to say, “Margraten is my church.”

>> 32

MAY/JUNE 2019 31

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