Nomi Wagner Portrait Artist

Remembering … on Memorial Day and Always

by Nomi Wagner

During our recent trip to Europe, Gerry and I visited my father’s grave at the Ardennes American Cemetery, near Liège, Belgium. It is always an emotional experience for me to see so many (5,323) headstones in such a magnificent and peaceful setting. It is overwhelming to grasp the number of lives changed forever by the horrors of war. My Dad and many of those buried at this cemetery were part of the 1944 Ardennes winter offensive, the Battle of the Bulge.

At this visit we were especially moved by the tender care given to this cemetery and the 23 additional overseas military cemeteries by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The Commission was established by Congress in 1923 to commemorate the service, achievements, and sacrifice of U.S. armed forces.

Map in the Memorial

Our Commission host at the Ardennes, Jeff Hays, explained the combat and supply activities of the Battle which are described on three large marble wall maps in the beautiful Memorial. Jeff graciously showed us all over the cemetery, and found the graves of Dad’s buddies for us. I was unaware that local people in Belgium have adopted our service people and regularly visit and place flowers on their graves. Jeff will be putting us in touch with the lovely people who adopted my father.

Rubbing Omaha Beach sand into the lettering

Jeff had me use the sand he personally brought from Omaha Beach to rub into the lettering on the headstones, making them easier to read. Jeff is eager to find out more about all the service people buried in the Ardennes and to keep their stories alive.

I know that the people of Belgium are very grateful for our G.I.s. Our taxi driver, who took us from the train station and back, thanked us personally for our family’s sacrifice and told us about her brave grandparents who were part of the Belgian Resistance.

Our Taxi Driver

You can read the blog post I wrote, on September 6, 2011, telling my father’s experience as an American GI POW sent to a concentration camp. It can be found under Nomi's Personal History.

The American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries are all over the world. Keep that in mind for your future trips.