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Margraten Kids of the 100th

by Adrian Caldwell
Splasher Six, Spring 2006, Vol. 37, No. 1
Cindy Goodman, Editor

October 2005 in Pittsburgh, PA was a reunion of famous “Greatest Generationers” but also a reunion of three “Second Generationers” with a common bond to the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in Margraten, Holland.

Adrian Caldwell, daughter of S/Sgt. Leroy E. Leist, 418th Squadron MIA 4 February 1944, Ron Lucas, son of s/Sgt. Joseph A. Lucas, 349th Squadron, MIA 5 August, 1944 and Frank McDermott, nephew of Casimer J. Kobis, 351st. Squadron, MIA 11 December 1943 had a reunion of their own. Sharing the commo9nd bond of a loved one listed to this day as Missing in Action, these three friends renewed a friendship that spans the United States. Adrian came from Tupelo, Mississippi, Ron from Kansas City, Kansas and Frank traveled from Boston, Massachusetts.

We had all met for the first time at the 100th Bomb Group Reunion in Omaha, Nebraska six years ago. It was a shocking for each of us to discover that we all had our loved ones memorialized at the beautiful Netherlands American Cemetery in Holland. May, 2004, Adrian and Robert Caldwell were in Holland to attend the Memorial Day Services at the Netherlands American Cemetery when they received a phone call at their hotel in Maastricht that Frank and Joan McDermott had persuaded their tour bus driver to make an off-schedule stop at the Cemetery. It was exciting for them to be there to welcome the bus and share, with Frank, the sight of his uncle’s name on the Wall of the Missing. It was a very emotional moment for all of them. They shared the honor of visiting Ron Lucas’ father’s name just a few rows below Adrian’s father’s name on the same Wall of the Missing.

The Cemetery is breath taking in its beauty and peacefulness. As one enters the cemetery, they are immediately taken with the beauty of the rolling Dutch countryside. Climbing the steps you are faced with the view of a long reflecting pool leading to the base of a 26-foot tall bronze statue of “A Grieving Mother.” Her head is bent in sorrow. On her shoulder are three doves in flight representing peace and at her feet is a burned tree stump with new growth representing new life. Bordering each side of this reflecting pool and statue are the two granite Walls of the Missing. Listed there are 1, 753 names of brave young men whose graves are known only to God.

As you walk between the Walls of the Missing and around the statue and Memorial Tower, you are taken to your knees with the view of 8,301 gleaming white crosses and Stars of David against a background of sparkling green grass meticulously manicured. Many of the graves bear beautiful fresh Dutch flowers placed there by Dutch families who have adopted the graves of the men buried at Margraten. The graves of the men have been adopted since the first Memorial Day in 1945 and this tradition is passed down from generation to generation. The Dutch do not want their children or grandchildren to forget the sacrifices made by Americans for their liberation. It is touching to view one family of three generations, a grey-haired lady, her daughter and two grandchildren all entering the cemetery, each carrying a bouquet of flowers to be placed on graves. As they place the flowers, they bow their heads and whisper a prayer for the soldier buried there.

Adrian, Ron and Frank all share a special place in their hearts for the men of the 100th Bomb Group. It is truly an honor for us to not only meet one another again at the reunions, but to just walk among the men of the famous, “Bloody Hundredth.”

We wish each of you good health and happiness as we look forward to the next meeting of the 100th Bomb Group Reunion in Nashville, TN in 2007.

Adrian Caldwell