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MARKET GARDEN

Published: 12 October 2009 from Nargarkot, Nepal

 

In the station were European veterans in old uniforms catching trains to who knows where.

Eindhoven was about an hour away.  Along the way it occurred to me that Maggie and the other veterans had jumped nearly this exact time, and maybe the corn was just like this in September 1944.  Maybe they had fought through this corn as is happening now in Afghanistan.

Eindhoven.

But where is the hotel?  Everywhere were veterans and re-enactors or active duty American soldiers.  Some Dutch re-enactors showed the direction to the hotel.

That evening, a big parade was brewing and more veterans were arriving.

Thousands of people were assembling near Eindhoven City Hall.

The veterans took VIP seating while crowds had to stand for hours.

General Petraeus arrived and said hello to each veteran, some of whom shook his hand while others saluted.  If General Petraeus had any idea of the hectic schedule that was still unfolding, he’d probably have wanted to get straight back into the war.  It seemed like everyone in Holland wanted to see the vets, and despite that the old soldiers were in their eighties and nineties, they kept going and going.

There must have been hundreds of vehicles in the parade.

And there on one of the military vehicles was Guadelupe with a big bandage wrapped around his head, like he’d been shaved too close by a bullet.  Most people probably thought he was just role-playing with all that gauze.  As it happened, the Market Garden Committee was keeping an angel eye on the veterans and took Guadelupe to the hospital but there was a crowd in the emergency room.  (How could there be a crowd in Eindhoven?  Bicycle pileup?)  But when the doctors realized Guadelupe was a veteran who liberated Eindhoven, they made Guadelupe the number one priority and he was first to be helped.  By the time Guadelupe got his head wrapped like a mummy, the parade was started and it was hard to get through town.  Some re-enactors saw Guadelupe and loaded him into a jeep and that’s where I saw him, rolling in the parade with that bandage.

So when Guadelupe got in front of General Petraeus and the Mayor, they stopped the parade and came down to check him out!  Guadelupe had a huge grin on his face, which unfortunately the lens didn’t catch.

The parade kept going, on and on.

Streets full of people.

Some Scots arrived and so this is some gratuitous advertising for RAFHALTON.com.

It kept going…

Veterans of the 82nd and 101st whose forerunners had helped liberate the land.

Never forget the Red Cross.

A big screen for those who could not see up close.

Are you tired yet?

Then came the kids bearing fire.

That’s Ralph Manley holding the torch.  Ralph was constantly on the radar screen.  Ralph was like Maggie; if he was talking, people listened.  He’s one of those men who once you meet him, you know you will never forget him.  Within the first minute Ralph had handed me an Eisenhower silver dollar and proceeded with what obviously was an oft-told story about meeting General Eisenhower.  There was something magic about Ralph.  When Ralph was eighty-two, another vet said, he had danced three women into the ground during a remembrance.  And so there he is up front and he’d somehow gotten hold of a torch.

It seemed like a matter of time until someone was set ablaze.

Dutch Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts marched by.

The parade finally ended.  It seemed to last all night but probably was only a couple hours, depending on when you started and stopped the clock.

Turns out, Ralph was carrying the torch to light the eternal flame.

Moments of silence under the glow of the flame.  Over the days, Ralph always radiated a powerful ambience when he saluted the flag or sang the National Anthem.

More honors are rendered.

These signs were all around, thanking the British and American soldiers.

After an exhausting day, some of the eighty- and ninety-plus-year-old veterans actually went out for a beer, while people danced in the streets to the Scottish bagpipes.

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