Cambridge American Cemetery: A piece of 82nd history in the English countryside
September 17, 2012
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND -- As you walk on this hallowed ground, you can sense the respect and pride that the English have for each and every Paratrooper and Soldier that is buried in this sacred place.
Cambridge American Cemetery is the location of the remains of 3,812 Soldiers, airmen, and sailors that were killed in Europe during World War II. It was a long process to ensure that each service member was properly accounted for and family members notified, and finally approved and properly laid to rest here.
Every year a ceremony is held on Memorial Day to honor of these brave Soldiers who gave their lives. Not only to ensure nothing infringed on American soil, but the English soil as well. "We had our backs against the wall and having the Americans here really gave us a bit of breathing room," said Rob Burrows, the current chairman of the Friends of the 82nd and son of a 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment Trooper.
This year Lt. Col. Kevin Cotman and Command Sgt. Maj. Lenard Summers of 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division had the opportunity to participate in an additional smaller ceremony commemorating the 68th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.
"As the World War II veterans pass away, we want to ensure that the local history and the history of the 505th is being preserved in a manner that people for generations will be able to understand and enjoy," said Arthur J.M. Brookes, cemetery associate at the Cambridge American Cemetery.
With nearly 2,000 service members buried here, the sight is truly breath taking. A passer-by could only imagine the stories of the Soldies that would never have the opportunity to return to American soil. Much like Cpl. Kenneth A. Vaught and Pfc. Robert L. Leaky who on the evening of June 5, 1944 were killed by a gammon grenade that exploded inside the aircraft in which they were waiting only two hours before the invasion of Normandy. Just as in their last minutes of life, they will forever be close to one another; they are buried in the same plot and grave number in side-by-side rows.
A poem provided by the cemetery's caretakers best describes the atmosphere in the area and of the visitors of the museum.
This day is set aside to honor those who took a chance to die.
But they have died in vain if we forget the reason why.
Freedom can be like time slipping away before we even know why.
But we all have the choice more a duty to battle freedom's foe.
Let us give thanks this day to to all those brave who paid the highest cost.
Not take it for granted and realize it easily could be lost.
The people who have been exposed to the history of the 505th PIR and 82nd Airborne Division in England truly do appreciate everything that has been sacrificed. It is comforting to many that efforts are constantly being made to preserve all aspects of these pages in history.