Memorial Day Recap 2011
This year's Memorial Day ceremonies were attended by thousands, including four US Senators, who turned out to honor the men and women who gave their lives for Europe's freedom and who safeguard this value today.
As is the tradition, the first official ceremony of the weekend was held at the Ardennes American Cemetery. Boy Scouts of Troop 457 welcomed attendees as they took their seats before the start of the ceremony. A Representative of His Majesty the King of the Belgians arrived to signal the beginning of the ceremony. Overhead, a fly-over conducted by four A-10 aircraft out of Spangdahlem, Germany, flew over the cemetery grounds in the Missing Man formation, marking those lost in battle. Children from the School of Rotheux performed both the Belgian and American national anthems before the laying of the wreaths.
The moving ceremony was followed by an equally engaging ceremony at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in the afternoon. A first-time Tribute to Liberty was read aloud by four students of the Hougnes school in Verviers, a testimony to the gratitude of today's youth for the freedom paid for in human blood by young men not much older than themselves just 60 years ago. The powerful message of their words was magnified as they echoed over this hallowed ground amidst the grandeur of today's American and Belgian troops who volunteered their time as the Color Guard at each of the weekend ceremonies. Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Didier Reynders also attended the day's ceremonies.
Sunday's ceremony at Flanders Field American Cemetery was equally as memorable with all of the traditional elements, including a Tribute by the American Legion and the singing of the national anthems by the local school children. John McCrae's famous poem, "In Flanders Fields", was beautifully recited by David Westland, a senior at Brussels American School. A Congressional delegation that included US Senators Leahy (Vermont), Shelby (Alabama), Grassley (Iowa) and Cochran (Mississippi). (See above photo: "© Digitalclickx.com). Click here to view more photos of the 2011 Flanders Field ceremony. Click here to read Senator Leahy's Tribute.
Numerous tributes were made over the course of the weekend by the honored and distinguished guests and the messages were resoundingly focused and on target as the meaning of past events and past sacrifice were tied to modern relevance for the reason we remember these actions on Memorial Day. In his tribute, Vice-Admiral Richard K. Gallagher, US Military Representative to NATO, reflected that recent events in the Middle East and North Africa serve as a poignant reminder that freedom is not universal and the valiant efforts that are being made in pursuit of basic liberties. (Read Vice-Admiral Gallagher's 2011 Memorial Day Tribute).
Ambassador Howard W. Gutman, US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, delivered a powerful tribute on the need to remember the past as a necessary element of moving forward with forgiveness towards a future brotherhood of man. (Read Ambassador Gutman's 2011 Memorial Day Tribute). Also attending the ceremony were Belgium's Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem, who offered a Tribute, and Minister of Justice Stefaan De Clerck.
Finally, the "Big 3� weekend ceremonies were not the only Memorial Day events to take place. Smaller ceremonies were held at the gravesites of the eight �isolated graves' which are recognized each year in this manner by the American Overseas Memorial Day Association (AOMDA) Belgium. One ceremony, honoring 2Lt Gilbert Malrait, was captured on video this year and provides a glimpse of these unique occasions, attended by local town officials, serving American military, Boy Scouts and other interested people. Watch the isolated gravesite ceremony for Gilbert Malrait here.
AOMDA Belgium is grateful to all those who made the 2011 Memorial Day weekend a memorable one and thank all those who attended these truly unforgettable events. Everyone is welcome to attend the ceremonies and we look forward to welcoming you again or for the first time in 2012.