By Eric Durr, Master Sgt. Lillique Ford, New York Air National GuardJanuary 9, 2018
SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- A New York Army National Guard Honor Guard joined Dutch officials and the Dutch Air Force in providing funeral honors for a 98-year old Syracuse man who was a knight of the Netherlands-- one of the last four living holders of the Netherlands' highest military honor-- here on Friday, Jan. 5.
Former United States Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Edward Fulmer was recognized by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in 1946 as a tribute to his heroism during the Operation Market-Garden airborne landings in Holland in September 1944.
Sir Edward Fulmer - he gets the honorific because of his membership in the Military Order of William --died Dec. 31 at the Veteran Administration Hospital in Syracuse. Three New York National Guard Soldiers provided military honors for the family during a ceremony held at the Butler-Badman Funeral Home.
"I feel much honored to be part of it," said Spec. Joseph Bianchi. "It's a once in a lifetime experience and a great way to honor a hero from World War II."
Dutch Ambassador Henne Schuwer praised Fulmer as one of the "bravest people."
"The Americans and the Canadians were the ones to liberate the Netherlands," Schuwer said. "It was exceptional what he did and what he suffered afterwards."
Ambassador Schuwer and 19 other Dutch dignitaries and military representatives attended Fulmer's military funeral. More would have been present but they were trapped in Philadelphia because of the northeast winter storm, Schuwer said.
The New York Army National Guard Honor Guard members folded the American flag, which covered Fulmer's coffin and presented the flag to son, Randy Fulmer.
Members of the Royal Netherlands Air Force provided an honor guard for the casket during the ceremony and Ambassador Schuwer presented a message from the king of the Netherlands to the family.
The Order of William is a brotherhood, the ambassador explained, and "if you are a member of the list of brothers the people of the Netherlands have a duty towards you and this is one of our final duties. We have to help him on his last way home."
Fulmer was the co-pilot of a C-47 transport plane towing a glider filled with troops and cargo destined to reinforce the 82nd Airborne Division on the second day of the battle on Sept. 18, 1944.
His plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire, the pilot was knocked out, and the plane was set afire. Fulmer took over, keeping the plane level so that the glider crew could drop the tow cable and land and other crewmembers could parachute out. He then crash-landed the plane so the pilot had a chance to survive.
Fulmer suffered burns over two-thirds of his body. And broke a vertebrae in his back.
He lived with pain for the rest of this life, Schuwer said.
Fulmer was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal by the Army.
In 1946 Fulmer and 18 other American veterans of the Market-Garden attack were honored by being knighted by the queen and made members of the Military Order of William.
Also included in the list was Major General Maxwell Taylor, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and Lt. Col. Julian Cook, who personally led a boat assault across the Rhine River to capture the bridge at Nijmegen.
The order is the Netherlands highest military award and is presented for feats of bravery on the battlefield and to military leaders to mark meritorious service. The order, created in 1815, is named for King William of the Netherlands.
One of the original awards went to the Duke of Wellington for the role in played in winning the Battle of Waterloo. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was also honored by being made a member of the Order of William after World War II.
Since 1947 two Dutch military officers have been knighted, both for actions in Afghanistan, one in 2009 and one in 2014. Currently there are three living holders of the Military Order of William.
Major Gijs Tuinman, the most recent recipient of the order visited with Fulmer six weeks ago, the ambassador said. A military liaison officer from the Dutch embassy visited him regularly, he added.
The Chancellery of the Orders of the Netherlands, Major-General Retired Henk Morsink, also praised Fulmer.
"I had the honor to meet him three times in recent years, and I would like to repeat the words of General Patton: We should not cry for the loss of this man, but we may thank God for the honor and privilege of this great man, Edward Simons Fulmer. We will never forget Ed, Morsink said.
It was an honor for the New York Army National Guard to take part in the ceremony recognizing Fulmer, said Lt. Col. Mark Frank, the officer responsible for the New York National Guard Honor Guard program.
The Dutch government, realizing that Fulmer was getting on in years, had been coordinating with his team for the past two years to plan for a funeral for Fulmer, Frank explained.
Because of the sub-zero temperatures in the Syracuse area, the interment of Lt. Fulmer will be delayed to the spring. Full honors will be provided for his burial then, Frank said.
Having the Dutch Airmen present made the experience memorable, Bianchi said.
"It is a great honor and experience to meet service members from the Netherlands that are here to pay their last respects to someone that was recognized by their country," he added.