By Sean Brish, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public AffairsAugust 25, 2017
CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- August 15 was a time for reflection in the quaint town of Brugelette as the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux community joined the townspeople in commemorating the 75th anniversary of Belgian Air Force Lt. Col. Joseph Daumerie's death. The afternoon was also spent celebrating the centennial of Chièvres Air Base and the 50th anniversary of the presence of American troops in Belgium.
André Desmarlières, the mayor of Brugelette, learned about the USAG Benelux commander Col. Kurt P. Connell's intent to honor the local war hero and decided to host a commemorative event. Additionally, volunteers from the garrison's Religious Support Office offered to clean Daumerie's grave and participate in the event.
The idea initially came from Frank Leon, the director of religious education. He stumbled upon Daumerie's grave a few weeks earlier while wandering through Brugelette.
"I was taking a bike ride through this countryside one summer evening and the cemetery was open," said Leon. "So, I came inside and started reading the tombs and recognized his name right away."
Born in 1888 in Brugelette, Daumerie fought in both World Wars I and II. In 1940, he helped establish a military intelligence network as a member of the Belgian underground movement. He was captured by the Germans and executed in Berlin on August 26, 1942. He was posthumously promoted to "Captain in the Intelligence and Action Services." This prestigious title has been awarded to only 190 people, of whom a quarter earned the honor posthumously.
As the town band began playing the Belgian and U.S. national anthems, the event commenced with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Monument to the War Dead on the Brugelette Grand Place.
Later in the afternoon, garrison community members and the townspeople of Brugelette made their way to the cemetery. White roses were handed out to those wishing to lay them by Daumerie's grave.
Among the attendees was garrison chaplain Lt. Col. William Lovell. He addressed the crowd, telling them how important it was to pay homage to the local hero. A final salute was given to Daumerie before Chaplain Capt. Paul Camiring blessed his grave.
"Every day I drive into a caserne named after Colonel Daumerie and I work in a chapel named after Colonel Daumerie," Lovell said in his keynote speech. "It is fitting we honor his memory and the sacrifices he made for this country and for the Allies."
Before heading to the reception, attendees gathered around Daumerie's memorial plaque at the local pharmacy, where he was born, and placed a wreath beneath it.
The event also celebrated the centennial of Chièvres Air Base as a military base and the 50th anniversary of U.S. military presence in the area. During the reception, Mayor Desmarlières not only narrated Daumerie's accomplishments but also spoke about the importance of the multicultural partnership between the U.S. Army and Brugelette, thanking everyone who had played a part in making the event a success.
Attendees also viewed displays showcasing the history of the air base and the presence of American troops in Belgium.
Following the mayor's remarks, Lovell ended the ceremony by highlighting the solidarity between the American and Belgian communities and how it translated into commemorative events such as these.
"Since 1967, our American community and your population have lived and worked side by side in a peaceful and friendly environment. Together, for the past 50 years, we have accomplished great things."