Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rory takes a Mulligan

Photos by Stan Rolfsrud
It's just a practice round today at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine in Chaska so you can take as many swings as you want. . . and patrons can take as many pictures as they want at any time. A fun day.
Looking every bit like the 10 million bucks he won just two days ago at the FedEx Cup, Rory McIlroy chatted with the patrons, then stepped into the number nine tee box and striped one right down the middle, farther than anyone else in the group. It apparently wasn't good enough, he took a Mulligan.

The second drive was as perfect as the first. The camera position didn't change and Rory's form is so perfect and repeatable that the first swing is almost indiscernible from the second in the two photos above.  (You have to look at the people in the background to see that it is actually two different photos taken a full minute apart.)
The rest of the team members came by, we got tons of photos and they took tons of shots, focusing mostly on the good old guys like Phil and Sergio and Lee Westwood. We also spotted Tiger and Bubba, both zipping around in official carts, as befits their Ryder Cup office.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wayne and Mary Ann are finished; don't know much about Brad and Angelina

The reason Wayne doesn't know anything about Brad and Angelina's alleged International Falls one-hour international incident could be this.
He's been busy. Wayne and Mary Ann are just finishing up on the siding project on their home on Rainy Lake and it looks fabulous. Wayne sent us a couple of photos of their summer-long home improvement that began last spring when he pulled some siding off and discovered that the original boards were still in good shape, just requiring some tender care.
Wayne writes:

In April I started to tear off the siding on our house and we were looking at various new siding ideas. We discovered the beveled 3.5 siding to be in very good shape. We also discovered where windows used to be. Six weeks later with workers off and on they took down scaffolding and left. A new roof went on in June. There were 6000 nails to double prime. Next year, new windows and we'll redo the three season porch.

With winter coming, finishing touches have been made on the siding and Wayne and Mary Ann are rightfully proud.
Don't know anything else about that other couple, our best to them as well.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

So who needs Comcast?

Thank you Buffalo Wild Wings. That's our game, second from left. Go Gophers.
It's hard being a Minnesota Gophers alum and football fan. To begin with, you don't often get a winning team to follow. And when you do, it's become impossible to find the games anywhere on cable tv.
Thanks to greed and deregulation, the Gopher game channel du jour has become an elusive state secret. We've paid for hundreds of Comcast channels and you can get dozens of college football games on a Saturday, but never the one you actually want.
Today's treasure hunt came when the paper said the game could be found on ESPNU. Okay. So where's that? The printed guide suggested something up around HD 869. Ha.. Try as we might, no dice. Is ESPNU in our bundle? How could you know? There's also a group of channels called BigTen network which would be a logical spot, but only the more important Big Ten teams seem to get a spot there. So we chucked it, figured our neighbors would just tell us who won when they got home from the game.
Disappointed, we decided to risk the Mall of America on a weekend for a double rack of Tony Roma's world's greatest ribs, to go. Idling as we awaited our order, we spotted a television with the Gophers on it at Buffalo Wild Wings, right next to The Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp. We stood outside looking in and watched a very thrilling fourth quarter, with the Gophers victorious after a big push by Colorado that came close to tying the game. There was no game sound of course, other than the sporadic crash of thunder coming from the Rainforest sound system, but football doesn't really need commentary. Sometimes it's better without it.
Our racks of ribs now secured, we found the brother-in-law's favorite slippers at Alpaca heaven on sale, two pairs for $70.
What could be better? New Alpacas for Dan, two racks of ribs with Honey Carolina sauce, cole slaw and baked potato, and a big victory for the Golden Gophers!
Who needs the stress of Comcast. Time to cut the cord.
Go Gophers!

With love, from Berchtesgaden -- she likes it!

Shopping area in Berechtesgarden. You can see the Eagle's Nest from here.
Jewelry store on the right.
The refrigerator magnet and the Belgian chocolates were the easy part.
The most stressful part of the recent Band of Brothers tour of Europe was finding The Real Gift for my sweetie back home.
As we passed through European cities and villages I kept an eye out for possible venues. The tour boss said, "Don't worry. There's plenty of time for shopping at the end of the two weeks."
I worried.
Let's see. If it is earrings it needs to be a French wire. Should it be a gold setting, or now she doesn't want gold settings? Prefers stainless or sterling? Can't remember. Oh boy.
Berchtesgaden was the Alpine resort home to all the greatest Nazis. If you were anybody at all, you had a place near the Fuhrer in the gated community on the gorgeous mountainside. When the Allies finally took over the town, the streets were empty, if you lived here, you were a loyal Nazi and were not out waving at the boys.

Where does one begin?
Today Berchtesgaden is still a beautiful city and it has a very nice shopping district. We stayed there for our final three days, taking in the mountains and still waters. The big train station built especially for Hitler and his henchmen now flies the Burger King flag, leaving no doubt about who won the war.
There's also a dandy jewelry store just down from our hotel with nice stuff. The Band of Brothers tour boss was right -- as usual.
So the afternoon after our ascension to the Eagle's Nest, I descended with some dread into The Shops. The tension was palpable. Palms sweaty, we begged assistance from the busy clerk. She spoke German and very little English. I don't think she even knew what I meant when I said "wife" (hausfrau?) and gestured to the glass cases, glittering with so much I know nothing about, labeled in euros.

Housfraus from the village.
Fortunately, just as I was about to glaze over and "settle" for anything, I found Patty Bryant for a quick consult. It wasn't long before my fellow traveler had rejected my tentative pick and spotted just the thing in the window. It wasn't earrings, it was a necklace. She said she liked it and told me why. We looked it over and talked about Kathleen.
As the proprietor wrapped it up and explained in really bad English how I could get the taxes refunded if I filled out forms and stood in another line at the airport in Munich, I was joined by another fellow traveler, dropping in to the shop.
"I love it!" Bev exclaimed, and all the tension was gone. That night I packed it away with a satisfying sense of conclusion.

Today Kathleen received her box. Earlier, she put the magnet on the fridge and snorted at my joke which implied that the lovely magnet featuring the Zum am See lake scene was to be The Real Gift. She's nibbled at the Belgian Chocolates, but never really had a taste for European sweets, including their cookies.
So this was it. She slid the box open and. . . she loves it! No, she really does, she's not just being nice. "So simple, and beautiful," she purred.
Thank you Ron, thank you Patty, thank you Bev, and thank you Berchtesgaden.
It's good to be home.

(left) The pearl on the sterling setting did the trick. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Gary's back

Gary, our green heron, has returned to his solitary post, fishing the waters off Abbey Point, coiled and ready. Good to have him back again, not sure how long he'll stay this time. We're expecting a day of rain to saturate the ground and cancel tomorrow's tee time. Things are back to normal.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Grandpa's Back!

Whenever we neared a rack of little girl stuff, travel mate Dave Stapelton could usually be seen giving it a once over, thinking of the granddaughter he'd left behind in Chicago.
This morning a note from Dave confirmed that he's been reunited with Francesca and she looks to be every bit as sweet as Grandpa says she is. Hope she likes all the stuff Grandpa got for her.
Dave, an avid Bears fan, hates the Vikings. Too bad about last night on national tv. Not sure if he stayed up late for the final result or if jet lag shielded his sensitivities.
Go Vikes! Chicago will get its chance, Dave.
In the meantime, enjoy your grandchild.

With consultant Patty Bryant in Zell um See.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The little pack is complete again . . .

Naturally, Birdie was more interested in the uneaten croissant than these souvenirs.
And the Belgian Chocolates got her sniff test before a swift intervention.
The German agent in Munich froze the conveyor to inspect the suspicious material in the Zip-loc bag in the carry-on, squeezing it between his thumb and forefinger. "It's sand from Omaha Beach," I explained. Everything in order, the traveler continued on to await boarding his American Airlines flight to Philadelphia.
Nothing was ever said about the pine cone from The Ardennes.
Hours later, the yellow Volkswagen was a welcome sight at MSP arrivals, it contained my sweetie and a happy greeting to end this most wonderful two-week experience.
The return home had required 24 hours of bus rides, confusion, passport this, customs that, boarding documents, denial of records, three forms of identification for a bottle of water inside the secure zone, over an hour to get the AA luggage carousel to spit up bags in Philadelphia, and other ordinary reasons to hate travel, but in the end it was a worthy exchange:: a 24-hour gauntlet of exhaustion, frustration and security for a most memorable and fulfilling two weeks.
Time to reflect with loved ones and a jubilant dog who seemed very happy to have her little pack complete again.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

We end with a splash!

Its fresh, but not too cold. Lake has been warming all summer for us. Photo series by David Stapleton.
That's Ron Drez at far left, the absolute authority on this jump, coaching
his recruits, mostly younger men, but the oldest aged 73

At the winding down of the European Theatre of Operations marked by VE Day, the entire 101st Airborne Division headquartered out of a beautiful Austrian town, Zell um See. Since we're closing down our World War II study trip re-tracing the activities of Easy Company, we drove there as well for our finale.
In the spring and summer of 1945, Easy Company was still in training, there was the unwelcome possibility of even more war in Japan, but in the meantime there was plenty of time for enjoying the gorgeous setting and especially the still, cold waters of the huge lake that is the town's centerpiece.
Dave wore a GoPro into the deep, capturing the
action and a lot of churning water. 

If you've seen the HBO Band of Brothers series, you may recall Capt. Nixon and Major Dick Winters  discussing future plans then taking a swim in the refreshing waters.
Stan conceded the towel to Greer, the oldest man in
the water, but only by a couple of years.
Today, under the guidance of Ron Drez, whose research, interviews and relationships with veterans like Winters helped form the factual foundation of the series, volunteers stripped down to re-enact the scene. Although most did not take the leap, we eventually put together a respectable representation.
On Ron's command, we jumped from the stone wall and plunged into the deep water, probably about 8 feet deep where we entered. Bubba and the other southerners amongst us had warned it would be a shock to the system. It was not. The northerners agreed it was no more more bracing than a Fourth of July dip in Lake Minnetonka.
We paddled about in the clear pool and then treaded water for the gaggle of photographers and some locals who had gathered to witness the event. We eventually emerged and dried off for the ride back to Berchtesgarden, thus forming our very own Band of Jumpers.
We'll board our flight home in Munich tomorrow, if all goes well, Minneapolis by nightfall. 
We're ready to come home.

A fine Band of Jumpers posed for the photographers. Hurry up. (See Patty on the end? A trooper)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hitler loved the Alps, the nest, not so much

Hitler was popular with the folks in town, they'd wait for hours to get a glimpse when he'd arrive on his
special railroad train escorted by SS troops. The oversized station had a special entrance for him. There's
a Burger King there now as a reminder of who won the war -- and lots of shops.
It's easy to see why Hitler loved this part of the Bavarian Alps so much. He first saw it in 1923, long before he was voted in as Chancellor, but he never forgot it, and came back whenever possible.
Remarkably clear views today, the locals said. You could easily
see into Austria from the Eagle's Nest. 
The locals came to love him, especially after an over-sized railroad station of "intimidation architecture" was built, giving the area a new prestige. Obersalzberg soon became the second seat of government, behind Berlin, and was the site of many of the major decisions of war, peace and genocide made by the Third Reich.. All the Big Nazis had big homes there. Goering's house stuffed with stolen property and a massive wine cellar was perched nicely among the other quarreling Nazis. A large contingent of SS was stationed here, operating a world class gated community on the side of the mountain.
Contrary to popular belief, the photos of Hitler and his henchmen relaxing together are not taken up at the Eagle's Nest, more likely at the Hitler main house and support complex known as the Berghof. It also featured fabulous Alpine views, as we saw today. A squeamish Hitler didn't really like the high-altitudes of his Eagle's Nest, went there only about 20 times after it was constructed in the late 30s as a 50th birthday present from the Nazi Party.
This is the view from Hitler's Burghof, lower down the mountain.
Still an excellent scene, one that is seen in many of the
well-known Hitler and henchman photos. If there is a terraced floor
in the photo, its taken at the Burghof. No terrace at the Nest.
Hitler preferred his massive tea house at a lower altitude for morning leisure.
The Berghof was blasted away by the RAF at the end of the war and demolition teams went in years later to finish the job. Much has been destroyed because the site is "sensitive" -- fears of creating a center for neo-Nazi sentiments led to the destruction and isolation of much that was built there. Perhaps that's why the Eagle's nest gets more attention. There's not much else left above ground to see.
The Eagle's Nest was also slated for destruction but a local governor intervened and it is now operated by a private company that supports a charity. It's a boon to the resort towns spread out below.
We spent the day looking over the local remnants of the Third Reich. The most stunning revelation was the massive bunkers under the mountain, never fully completed, but comprising four miles of tunnels cut through the rock, much of it by forced labor. As it turned out, the expensive bunker complex only saved the workers, because when the Allies bombed the area just before the end of the war, using massive tall boy bombs that destroyed buildings but didn't dent the bunkers, they were the only ones home.
Just another Herald reader in Germany.
When the Americans took over the bunker maze they invited the local population to take whatever they wanted and they eagerly stripped the bunkers bare, every kitchen sink, bed and door knob.
There was enough left to make an impressive tour today, but the public is only allowed into about 5 percent of the tunnels and rooms. Cut from solid rock and skinned with five feet of brick, gravel, fabric and smooth cement, the tunnels are fixed forever in the mountain.
Though Hitler never officially went up to the Eagle's Nest after 1940, our ride up the mountain was not anti-climatic. On the contrary, the views from the bus taking the same route carved by well-paid workers (not slaves as some of us had thought) were spectacular. Ass-kisser-in-chief Martin Bormann had the "gift" built for his Fuhrer. When Hitler first saw the dining room and mentioned that he would have liked beams in it, well, presto, massive wood beams were added, even though they had no structural value.
Beams to please. The metal strap splices two beams
together, showing that there is no structural value.
We enjoyed a sit-down dinner of sauerbraten and spaetzel under those beams and had a souvenir photograph taken in front of the Italian Marble fireplace that Easy Company and others chipped up for souvenirs when they entered the structure and then had their famous pictures taken relaxing on Hitler's furniture.
Our photo was for the Chaska Herald's "Global Herald" feature where readers send in photos of themselves reading the Herald in odd places. We're hoping for some local ink.
Back at the hotel, we enjoyed our view of the Eagle's Nest, but now wished for x-ray vision to see through the mountain into the amazing mass of infrastructure hidden from view under a spectacular Alpine forest of green.
Entrance to bunker maze, Only 5 percent is accessible. Our guide has seen more of it. All extremely
durable. Note the brick lining between the cement walls and the solid rock.

View toward the Eagle's nest

Looking south from Stan's hotel room. That's the Eagles' nest on the peak to the left. We'll ascend it this morning.
At the end of the war, Easy Company finally got an easy assignment, the capture and holding of a beautiful Alpine area, a resort retreat for the well-to-do and privileged Nazi party members. Easy made the most of it, liberating everything from rare wines in mammoth cellars to the silver service from Hitler's mountaintop aerie.
We've tucked in to the same location in Berchtesgaden, the accommodations Easy used are gone but we've found an excellent substitute, the venerable Vier Jahrezeiten, with its breathtaking views and dated atmosphere of privilege long gone. Bier und weinerschnitzel und gemudlicheit fur alles!
We'll be here three days, time to decompress and acquire some souvenirs from the shops below. There's a cold mountain lake and there's swimming trunks in the backpack. The crazy guy from Prior Lake says he's going in for sure. There's equivocation from the Shakopee guy. Maj. Dick Winters, the hero we've traced all the way from Taccoa, swam here. Pressure.
Today we'll have a look at Hitler's Eagle's Nest. The first Allied patrol to reach it was Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Division. No one was home, just the butler. Ach.

Dated atmosphere of privilege.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Not today

Dachau for three hours.
No post today.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Outpost at No. 7; base for prisoner snatch

There was a machine gun position on the balcony looking over the canal into enemy territory.
Easy Company set out from this house on the front line to cross into enemy territory, snatch prisoners, and return. We visited the unoccupied house today at No. 7 on the Moder Canal in Hagenau, France. As depicted in a Band of Brothers episode, on Feb. 28, 1945, the patrol crossed the canal that runs in front of this house, sneaked into an outpost on the other side, tossed in grenades and captured and returned with two Germans, as requested by Regimental Command. They left behind timed explosives that destroyed the house some hours later.
After that success, they were asked to do the same thing the next night, but given the high risk and pointlessness of it, Capt. Dick Winters at battalion risked a court martial and told them to just get a good night's sleep and they would fake the records for headquarters. It worked and Easy moved out the next day with the war nearing its end.

The canal was running fast and up to the top edge in February when Easy crossed in rubber boats
and returned with two prisoners and their  fatally-wounded comrade.

The Imaginary Line

If this looks like a Disney ride, that's okay. The whole Maginot project involved a lot of Imagineering.
The Maginot Line is closed on Mondays. Except for us, because we're special. That's what we were told by our escort anyway.
Sure enough, because of a warm long-standing relationship, the manager was glad to briefly open the gates today to show us what's left of this gargantuan folly built in the years between the World Wars, by a war-weary nation seeking to improve on trench warfare with an impenetrable industrial-strength high-tech border wall to replace the ditches and open sewers of the previous war. It was very popular with the people and Monsieur Maginot.
Ammunition entrance
Our party penetrated the mountain fortress on a narrow-gauge rail road, to journey through a maze of tunnels, meticulously laid out with every possible war time scenario planned for, except for one no one thought of: The Germans would simply bypass it all and invade France through neutral Belgium -- demonstrating for all time the futility of building a huge wall to keep out the neighbors.
The Disneyesque experience inside, not unlike riding through the Small World, seemed ironic, since the protection afforded by this monstrosity was only an illusion of purpose.
We emerged, chilled by the dank air and somewhat depressed by the incompetence and arrogance of French leadership. The conscripted men stationed there were sent to German prisoner of war camps for the duration of the war through the same deal that brokered 75,000 French Jews to the Nazis.

We were in Fort du Simserhof. Most everything else has been dismantled.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Heavy Metal expo -- the Barrett Jackson of tanks

It's the angles that make shells bounce off.
Checking the options. Kicking the tracks.
We saw tons of tanks, courtesy of the Belgian Army's massive collection of armored vehicles at their base in Bastogne, but this rare T-34 Russian version drew the most interest. The Belgian information officer explained the revolutionary design that relied on angled plates to deflect shells as opposed to thicker armament that would have slowed this swift tank, legendary for its performance in the epic battles that turned the tide for the Allies on the Eastern front.
Adding to our knowledge was an explanation by a chemist in our party as to why cold weather froze German fuel and oil, but not Russian. Something about the modification of strings of molecules in diesel fuel.
This is a study trip, remember?
Monday we will ride with Patton on a Sherman across the Siegfried line. Might not have been the best of the tanks, but we sure made a lot of them.

Speaking of large vehicles. . .
Here's the most skilled bus driver you'll ever meet. Drives all over Europe on the tiny impossible roads. Hates drivers in downtown London the most. Can back up in darkness between hedgerows using infra-red rear-facing cameras. Keeps soda cold and available, recharging stations ready. Closed circuit tv working. Bathrooms clean. 
Stan's camera battery failed at Omaha Beach. Menno Greven had a spare for him. Has been driving for this group for five years.  Speaks a variety of languages. 
Has a family in the Netherlands. His wife and son will join him on his next tour, which is good because he doesn't see them a lot. He's a driver in demand. We are lucky to have him. Knows every legal (and illegal) parking spot on the continent. Customs rules. We could go on, but we'd be late for the bus. 
He picked us up at Heathrow and this competent gentleman will deliver us to Munich Friday on time for our flight home, of that we are certain.

He'll make one for you. . .

Strapped on the back of his flatbed, the sculpture is quite arresting. So is the artist.
Though we didn't understand much,
Gilles never stopped talking.
Queen Elizabeth was quite taken by this sculpture. She should be, it's of her horse "Estimate" who won the prestigious Ascot Cup in 2013. She hardly ever wins, so this was a big deal. Flemish Artist Gilles Falisse, using his own invented technique, built this likeness from small stones bound in a stainless steel grid. It was displayed somewhere in England and received a kiss on its nose from none other than Kate Middleton. Then he made a mold of it and produced a bronze version.
We met him Sunday afternoon and his English was good enough to explain to us that though some people don't consider this art, he does. Quite valuable art, apparently, as he attempted to close the deal on the spot. He would like $120,000. We're not sure if that's Euros or Dollars. Or if that is delivered to the U.S...

The artist said his ultimate dream is to sculpt a cowboy. We suggested he go to Dallas and make his pitch.

He loves horse sculptures, has created many. To see a stunning array of horses in metal and other formats, go to  www.falisse.net.
I promised Gilles I would do that.

Where's Bubba?

Where's Bubba?
The dense forest made operations in the countryside near Bastogne difficult, easy to get lost in the dark and keep track of your unit. Easy to run into a German out of his area or perhaps on patrol. Look closely and see if you can find Bubba out exploring for foxholes. Hint: He's wearing a starched white shirt, which would have been good camouflage in the winter, but works against him today. Good hunting.

Easy Company dug in for about 30 days around Christmas of 1944 during the 101st Airborne defense of Bastogne that left large parts of the town in rubble.
Every state in the USA is named in this star-shaped
testament to the resistance at Bastogne. The views
on top are magnificent, we charted the day's journey
from there.
But the stubborn defense held, the surrounded city was never taken. After the war, grateful townspeople, despite untold difficulties, gathered up bricks from ruined buildings and built a huge memorial and battlefield viewing platform, honoring every state in the USA. They dedicated this monument in 1947, an amazing feat under post-war circumstances.
About three stories high, we climbed the circular stair to look over the specific battleground detailed in The Band of Brothers, then came down and watched the pertinent video in the bus before we walked the ground and saw the forest where this epic defense took place.
Some foxholes have been preserved. They provided some, but often deadly cover from artillery bursts that shattered trees and sent wooden missiles in all directions. On this beautiful day in the Ardennes, we imagined  the dangerous conditions in the dark on the coldest winter in memory. 
Easy Company rose from these
frozen foxholes in a charge to a
farmstead below -- depicted in
Band of Brothers.
Members of our party moved on, demon-strating how easy it is to lose sight of a comrade, or get mixed in with the occasional German outpost.
We traced their attack through Foy and beyond, then stopped where Easy Company -- after the many skirmishes -- was finally able to rest in a church and have a real roof over their heads. They were treated to a concert by children across the street in their schoolhouse. It was heaven, one said. They thought they were done with their mission and would soon be pulled back to France.
That was not to be, there was more fighting to do immediately for this elite force. We'll continue on as well.

Looking out the window, we're entering Luxembourg, a country so small it only says LUX on the maps.Perhaps for Luxury at the fine Novotel we stay in tonight. There's a Burger King on its border. Do they really love Americans that much?

The German dead from the Bastogne area fights with Easy Company are found in a large German cemetery nearby, containing thousands of German war dead. Each gothic stone marker indicates the burial place of six men, laid side by side. This efficient arrangement makes the message left there that we found today (above) particularly poignant..
This translation is from Stan's college German and therefore literally problematic, but the sentiment is universal:
Dead Soldiers are never alone
Always their faithful
Comrades stay beside them.

It is unusual in warfare for the victors to accord such respect to the vanquished. The U.S. Army stands
alone in this regard. Historically, mass graves and unmarked burials are the norm for the losing side.
The care of these dead was eventually turned over to the new German government, of course

He protects the memory of William Dukeman

Peter adopted the grave of William Dukeman. He had to wait for the privilege.
Netherlanders are legendary for the protection and appreciation of their liberators. Particularly noteworthy is the nation's attention to the graves of those who died on their soil. Every one of the 8,600 buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial has been adopted by a family. They eagerly learn about the man and communicate with his survivors, maintaining this connection and memory in perpetuity.

Yesterday we traveled to the location at the dike where Sgt. William Dukeman of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Regiment fell during the ambush of two companies of Germans. Fifty Germans were killed, and 100 taken prisoner. Dukeman was the only death suffered by Easy.

Peter Schroyen
Today we met Peter Schroyen, 48, at the American Cemetery, a beautiful expanse in the Dutch countryside near Maastricht. When Peter heard it said that Dukeman's death was "worth it" in the episode of The Band of Brothers depicting this event, he resolved to learn more of this one man lost. He wanted to adopt his grave, but learned it had been taken by the same family since 1945. But last year its caretaker died and Peter immediately petitioned and won the right to adopt Dukeman's grave and family. "I was very lucky," he told us, "there is a waiting list and usually you have to take whomever they give you."
Today he took us to see his adopted grave, telling us in amazing detail all about William Dukeman. He knows about William's family problems growing up, how the Army was his way out of a difficult home situation.

More than that, Peter has met his relatives, traveled to Denver to see them and learn more. He has hosted family descendants at the cemetery in a flag refolding ceremony.

On many weekends, Peter drives out to the cemetery. He can spot Americans by their shoes and he approaches them to represent the appreciation his country has for the many sacrifices made.
Thank you, for what you do, we said to him. "No," he contradicted. "It is so little that we do, so much that you gave." His hometown is very near the German border and it was occupied immediately at the start of the war. "What could we do, we had weapons from World War I. We waited so long for liberation."
Peter is a most remarkable man, but in the Netherlands, he is not unusual.

Next Memorial Day, as in every Memorial Day, while Americans are enjoying their barbecues, 10,000 to 20,000 Dutch people will gather here among the 8,600 American graves for services and music, mostly Mozart, to remember the sacrifices of their liberators. Families without a grave to adopt are allowed to adopt a name from the Missing In Action wall.