Subtly isolated, but identical to the sea of marble stones bearing the names of veterans and their Families, lie eight distinct tombstones of fallen foreign soldiers now adorned with a single red rose resting atop each one at the Fort Bragg Main Post Cemetery.
Two German soldiers and several U.S. and other foreign soldiers united at the cemetery, Nov. 30, to honor the eight foreign prisoners of war buried there.
Six Germans, one Austrian and one Yugoslavian soldier - were POWs who lived, worked, and died on Fort Bragg during the installation’s time as a POW camp in the World War II era.
“During the month of November, people all over Germany pause each year to remember and honor our soldiers, victims of war, and those who lost their lives because of their race, religion, and/or their political convictions,” said German army Lt. Col. Frank Hoelzner, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, foreign liaison officer.
“Volkstrauertag” translates to ‘people’s day of mourning’ and is a public holiday in Germany commemorating members of the German armed forces and civilians who died in armed conflicts.
Hoelzner said that although the day on which National Memorial Day is observed in Germany may vary, it is always on a Sunday.
Although on opposite sides of both world wars and considered enemies then, Hoelzner said American and German forces are now allies and friends, along with other allied nations, who fight “shoulder to shoulder” in the War on Terrorism.
These memorial ceremonies, Hoelzner says, are a stark reminder of the price paid for the freedoms both of our nations cherish.
“In order to protect the values and rights, especially those who are oppressed in the world, we as soldiers are sometimes the ‘ultima ratio’ (Latin phrase meaning last resort.),” said Hoelzner. “But a culture of peace however, will not be remembered without the memory of sorrow. Therefore, a memorial day should never be observed as a routine day.”
According to Hoelzner, military cemeteries are monuments and symbols that remind us of the consequences of war, violence and terrorism. At the same time, they also represent a ray of hope for unification and brotherhood.
As the ceremony concluded, Hoelzner and German army Sgt. Maj. Konstantin Jabs, USASOC FLO, placed a wreath adorned with a German flag and the words “Never Forgotten” at the graves.