Americans have a habit of making a first visit to Holland by parachuting in. Next morning was a big jump as members of the 101st and 82nd Airborne did the same. Nobody knows how many people attended but some say it was maybe fifty or a hundred thousand spectators.
Later that afternoon, the bus headed to the “U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen,” where there was a party and barbeque along with a live band.
Re-enactors were there with these signs. More reminders of Afghanistan. “Roadside bombs” are nothing new to warfare. The Iraqis did not invent IEDs. Similar bombs were used during World War II.
More Afghanistan reminders.
There were U.S. Civil War re-enactors. Many Germans are involved in reenacting our Civil War, and though they are not permitted to re-enact World War II in the Netherlands, some actors talked about Germans who reenact entire battles in the United Kingdom.
There were Dutch soldiers present who had fought in Urozgan Province and every one of them wanted to return to Afghanistan. Every Dutch Afghan veteran I have met—whether that be in Borneo, Afghanistan, UAE or the Netherlands—all want to return to combat in Urozgan.
The students often lined-up with the veterans for a photo.
We loaded the bus and rallied somewhere—by now there had been so many events (not all described herein) that time had melted into goo and I often didn’t know where we were. Some German veterans arrived and we spoke at length in German. One had been a POW in Colorado picking potatoes and said his treatment had been very good and honorable, a story oft-repeated.
We loaded onto the bus and headed to the Waal River, where Maggie and others had crossed under heavy, direct German fire. The crossing seemed suicidal. Today the Dutch people had set up a giant monitor and two viewing sections where veterans would again be honored.
More veterans joined in.
Bus after bus arrived next to the Waal River.
Still more veterans.
Captain Will Garrison, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, had driven in from Germany.
Guadelupe unraveled the mummy bandage and was sporting his shiner. Asked if it hurt, Guadelupe said he used to box in the Army and didn’t feel normal unless he had a black eye.
Again the ceremonies last hours and again the best part was the kids.
That’s the Waal River in the background. This photo is taken from the viewing area as veterans again cross the river. In order to secure the nearby bridge to keep pursuing the retreating Germans, Maggie and his men were tasked to cross the river and attack across this open space and secure the bridge that was loaded with explosives. Please make sure to watch this movie trailer: A Bridge Too Far.
The movie “A Bridge Too Far” includes a reenactment of the Waal River Crossing.
America lost 47 men during The Crossing.
And so they crossed again, and were greeted by Dutch and American soldiers and lots of cameras.
Maggie, who had made the crossing then and today, said the government of the Netherlands will soon build a new bridge. This sign will mark the bridge that will be called The Crossing (De Oversteek).
The ceremonies continued with more talks and the names of the fallen were remembered and flowers were placed.
Veterans and General Petraeus gave inspiring talks.
This veteran had everyone rolling with laughter at his stories.
Maggie could probably talk for two days without a note. After maybe thirty minutes, a note was slipped to him that Queen Beatrice was waiting to meet him. He needed to cut it short, but Maggie said she could wait and everyone kind of laughed because he was not really joking, but then after some more minutes Maggie cut it short. At ninety-two and with all Maggie has lived through, he was having a say.
When he finished, General Petraeus and the rest high-stepped it over to see Queen Beatrice and Prince Philip. Some folks said Queen Elizabeth was coming.
Maggie, General Petraeus and crew where whisked off to the Royalty while we Commoners loaded into the long line of buses.