A group of WWII vets of the airborne assault Operation Market Garden have returned to the Netherlands for the 65th anniversary of the event. Memorialized in the movie a Bridge too Far, Market Garden was a massive effort to pull an end run on the German forces in Europe. Sadly as the movie title implies it was a bit too ambitious and the British Paras paid a heavy price when the ground forces were unable to link up with them. The group visited the American cemetery there.
Today was really special, though, because at the cemetery, I got a glimpse of the emotion behind the stories. As Mr. Colwell was talking, I was picturing each detail in my mind. How powerful it was standing in that cemetery, surrounded by crosses, knowing that every single cross did not just have a name, but that each cross represented a real life, a life that had stories just as real as the ones that Mr. Colwell had been sharing with me. Mr. Colwell got the chance to visit the grave of Lt. Colonel Robert E. Cole, medal of honor recipient, a man that he had great respect for. Mr. Colwell shared how he was standing right beside Lt. Col. Cole when he was shot.
I have been to the annual marches in Nijmegen that commemorate the events and they are quite a thing to see. Military teams from all over the world gather for four days to walk the same roads and cross the same bridges our allied forces did in WWII. The Dutch line the roads and cheer and the entire area joins in a festival. One of the first things I ever posted here was a story about Brits and Aussies scrapping in the beer tent after the days march.
I hope the group of paratroopers enjoys the chance to spend some time revisiting the sites and remembering their comrades.
Update: Blackfive busting in on Jimbo's post. This is one of my prized possesions - a photo taken by Wild Bill Guarnere parachuting into Holland (click on image for larger version):