By Sgt. Daniel ColeOctober 1, 2015
HARSKAMP, the Netherlands - Another day of fog and light rain overhead did not stop nearly 20,000 guests from coming to a remembrance ceremony here, Sept. 19, to pay tribute to the sacrifices made during Operation Market Garden.
The event, which marked the 71st anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the largest Airborne jump in history, hosted attendees who outlined more than a kilometer of the drop zone's border. Many surrounded the Airborne Monument in Ginkel Heide, which stands for Market Garden's fallen paratroopers, overlooking the historic drop zone in the town of Ede.
The soldiers participating in the event had spent the past few days taking part in other events, including a 17-kilometer road march, multiple jumps from Dutch and Belgium aircraft and interaction with those in the local community who came out to watch.
Due to a weather delay, the first paratroopers scheduled to wow the audience were unable to jump. Yet, the audience proceeded to gather by the monument and listen to the history of the ground they were standing on and what importance Operation Market Garden played for them in the present day.
"The steps we take today wearing the maroon beret are only the latest in the millions of steps going back for three-quarters of a century now," said U.K. Lt. Col. Oliver Kingsbury, commander of 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. "Some of the first steps and some of the most important steps in out history were taken here on this drop zone and the other drop zones in the area; in the woods, the fields, the streets and the houses stretching all the way from back behind me to the bridge in Arnhem."
A separate ceremony also occurred for a paratrooper who wanted to take the opportunity to have a memorable reenlistment here.
Spc. Forrest Weinheimer, a Wichita, Kansas, native and paratrooper assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, held his right hand high as he recited the reenlistment oath. But, this was not just any reenlistment ceremony. Besides the fact that it was happening on a historic drop zone, multiple World War II veterans were present to watch Weinheimer dedicate five more years of his life to the Army.
"I thought it would be memorable having the ceremony here," said Weinheimer. "I decided to do it to keep my family name in the Army and because I want to continue serving my country."
The sun finally broke the cloud cover around 12:30 p.m. and the crowd began growing as the scheduled jump become more likely.
At 2 p.m., to the crowd's delight, multiple aircraft, flown by different nations, were delivering their cargo out of their side doors.
Paratroopers from the seven nations filled the skies, landing on the rain-softened ground below.
After being greeted by the crowd as they walked to turn in their chutes, each lined up by the order of their flight and the pilot of their aircraft pinned on the respective nation's jump wings.
Overall, the multiple days spent training and building friendships between the participating nations were not about receiving awards or jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, but to remember those who gave their lives 71 years ago.
"If it were not for those who were here we would not have the lives we have here," one Dutch citizen said, who asked not to be named. "We would probably be speaking German," he joked.