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NEWS | March 13, 2013

Luxembourg American Military Cemetery

By 1st Lt. Daniel Klepper 17th Airlift Squadron

Supplying our commitments in Southeast Asia, Joint Base Charleston aircrews often find themselves stopping at U.S. Air Forces of Europe Air Bases. Keeping our C-17 Globemaster III assets on the move usually means aircrew have just enough time to grab a fresh hot dog at the Shoppette before entering crew rest for the mission's next leg. While settling down in our billets, Armed Forces Network commercials are sure to remind us of all the unique European cities that lie just outside our reach. Though our missions are all business, sometimes we are given the opportunity to explore beyond our small niche around base and really see Europe!

Recently, members of the 17th Airlift Squadron were able to hop on the Autobahn and head to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. The city of Luxembourg has more than a millennium of history to offer, but it was not the highlight of our day out. Just outside the city lies a site that carries far less fanfare than the pristine royal city, but without the men who rest in the Luxembourg American Cemetery, the city probably wouldn't exist as it does today. More than five thousand American service members who were killed in action during World War II, including Gen. George Patton, are buried here. The cemetery's plot of land is not far from where these Americans gave their lives in the Battle of the Bulge during the winter of 1944.

Arriving shortly before the cemetery's closing, we were met with the same weather that allowed German forces to launch their last major offensive under the cover of a harsh winter season. As we walked the cemetery grounds among the memorials and headstones, we felt close to these men. Knowing they gave their lives on this cold wintery battleground, their sacrifice seemed more real than it ever did in the history books. As the cemetery closed, the caretakers asked us to help retrieve the American flag these men died for. Though lacking military uniform, the Retreat ceremony was performed with full military custom and courtesy. Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Moss and Airman 1st Class Meghan Servias, 17th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, drew upon their honor guard training to honor the American flag and the American service members it flew above. Leaving the Luxembourg American Cemetery that night we were glad our European tourism had ended with an unforgettable American experience of patriotism.

While Arlington National Cemetery is often seen as the symbol of our nation's sacrifice for freedom, the final resting place for many of our American military are these overseas cemeteries. The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains 24 permanent American military cemeteries on foreign soil. There are more than 30,000 World War I and more than 93,000 World War II American war dead buried in cemeteries found in France, Belgium, England, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Tunisia. For those of us who have no more than a basic history education, many of these battle sites only seem familiar from watching Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan.

So, before you travel overseas again, look up the listing of American military cemeteries. They provide a patch of American soil for our fallen who will never return home, and probably aren't far from where you plan to travel. After visiting the final resting place of so many heroic Americans, you can't help but realize that though the face of warfare or the lines of battle may have changed, the cost has not.

American Battle Monuments Commission website: http://www.abmc.gov/home.php.