I hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend. Ours started out soggy. We had two tournaments– one baseball, one soccer— but rain that would make Noah shudder changed our plans. We managed to barbecue and see friends and family in between raindrops and the kids played 5 games so far.
But I never want to forget what the holiday is about, especially since—as you may remember from my Memorial Day blog last year-– my dad was a Vietnam Navy vet and extremely patriotic. Vets hold a special place in my heart.
I had never heard of the American Overseas Memorial Day Association (AOMDA) and I bet you haven’t either, but their mission will move you.
The AOMDA is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the memory of those who gave their lives in the World Wars, whose final resting places are in American military cemeteries or separate graves all over Europe and even Africa.
The group’s efforts are mostly run by volunteers in big cities– where American cemeteries have thousands of graves– and small towns where maybe only a handful of men are buried.
On Memorial Day, hundreds of volunteers make sure there’s a new flag on every grave of a fallen U.S. soldier. They also pay for floral arrangements and coordinate huge memorial ceremonies with crowds as big as 3,000- 5,000 people, who come to pay their respects and express their gratitude for the sacrifices made by American veterans to liberate Europe.
There are both Europeans and Americans who attend the ceremonies– some of them World War II veterans, although their numbers are dwindling as many are in their 90’s. Members of the U.S. and many European governments and military also attend.
The AOMDA enlists the help of local embassies, civic and vets organizations—and sometimes, if possible, next-of-kin volunteers– to place new flags every year on the hundreds of isolated graves in France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Many local Belgian residents have adopted graves of American vets at these cemeteries and honor them throughout the year. It’s a way of showing their appreciation for those who paid the ultimate price.
One of the organization’s goals is to continue to engage younger generations to always be mindful of American sacrifices. They do that through social media and interactive activities with young people like a recent local art competition asking the question, “Why should we remember them?” and an award that works like a Boy Scout merit badge.
I find it so impressive and meaningful that so many Europeans take the time and energy to remember our fallen vets on a day that isn’t even a holiday where they live. It also makes me wonder if we are doing enough here.
Fox also has a great story up now about a few simple things we can do here to honor all our vets. You can check it out here.