Attend the Memorial Day Ceremony at
Ardennes American Cemetery
May 27, 2017, 10 am
The Ardennes American Cemetery is the final resting place of 5328 military dead. They came from almost ever State in the Union as well as from the District of Columbia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the British West Indies. Among the graves are 11 instances in which 2 brothers are buried side-by-side. The graves of 792 are marked with crosses that read "Here Rests in Honored Glory A Comrade in Arms Known But To God." The Tablets of the Missing record the names of 462 servicemen whose bodies where never recovered.
Because the cemetery served as a central identification point during and after the war, the men who are buried here were killed throughout Europe and the Mediteranean. There is even a grave of a soldier who was killed at Guadalcanal in the Pacific. Three-fifths of all the burials are airmen who were shot down from the skies above Europe.
The first Memorial Day Ceremony held at the cemetery was on Memorial Day 1945. It was an ad hoc ceremony organized by the cemetery staff, but it quickly evolved into something much bigger. When the cemetery staff invited the mayor of Neuville-en-Condroz, Jean Gony, to their impromptu and informal event, the mayor enthusiastically embraced the ceremony and brought along a large contingent of local school children, veterans, and town officials to attend with him. The first official Memorial Day Ceremony at the cemetery occurred in May of 1946.
The ceremony at the cemetery continues to enjoy the strong support of the community of Neuville-en-Condroz. Since 2009, school children enrolled in an English language immersion program in Rotheux sing the American National Anthem at this ceremony. The current mayor, Arthur Cortis, organizes a brief wreath-laying ceremony at the war monument in Neupré prior to the ceremony and a reception for invited American and Belgian guests afterwards. Over the years, members of the Belgian royal family have occasionally attended the ceremony, including most recently Prince Phillip in 2004 and Princess Astrid in 2010.
Without a doubt, the most striking aspect of the ceremony is the presence of American and Belgian veterans of the war. Although their numbers dwindle each year, they are the living testament to what the ceremonies are all about. The next most striking aspect are the "Next-of-Kin": widows, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and especially children who never knew their fathers. The memories of the fallen live on.