Finally, after many years of wanting to get to Margraten for Memorial Weekend, I made it, and it exceeded all of my expectations. Even better, I was fortunate enough to visit two of the three American cemeteries in the region last weekend and pay my respects to 13 Citadel Men. Filled with countless impressions and new connections, it was a weekend I will keep close to my heart and hold tight.
The weather could not have been more perfect. It was gorgeous. The sky was a crystal clear Carolina blue and the grass a deep, lush green. The white marble monuments, Walls of the Missing, and headstones shone brilliantly in the sun. The flags fluttered majestically in the cooling breeze. At Margraten, the rhododendrons were in full bloom providing a fabulous burst of color. The scene had felt very familiar, but I could not place it. Now that I have had time to look back on last weekend, it finally came to me – The Citadel in April. The azaleas blooming, the leaves of the live oaks shimmering in the wind, and squinting into the bright sunlight reflected off of the whitewashed fortresses surrounding the parade deck.
Saturday morning I left the house early and stopped at the corner florist entering through the back door to pick up the bouquets and flowers I had ordered. Then I made my way south to Maastricht and then to the Belgium border. Before Liege I headed east towards Aachen, Germany. Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery is situated on the old provincial road between those two old cities. The road runs along the crest of a narrow plateau, and the views of the rural landscape to either side were stunning. I arrived at 9 a.m. moments after the gates had opened. There was little human activity. Singing birds enhanced the tranquility, and standing in the middle of that field of honor with its 7,989 white marble crosses and Stars of David, I felt completely at peace.