Ambassador Michael M Adler's Memorial Day remarks at Henri Chapelle American Cemetery, May 28, 20022
This marks my first Memorial Day in Belgium as U.S. Ambassador. I am deeply moved to be with you here today as we pay tribute to those who and fought and died for our freedom.
Looking at this majestic cemetery, it is hard to imagine the horrors of war that Belgium and most of Europe endured twice during the 20th Century. Millions of lives were lost in one of the greatest struggles in human history. All of the values that we hold dear – of freedom, liberty, equality – were close to being crushed under the boots of horrific regimes.
I recently visited the battlefields of the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the First World War battlefields around Ypres. I have heard heart wrenching stories of tragedy and loss but also of heroism. During those dark days, we witnessed some of the worst of humanity, but we also proved that we could rise above the hate and fear and be victorious. Sadly, that victory had a high cost. The crosses and Stars of David behind me are an eternal reminder of the high price of freedom. But not all those who died were found. There are thousands listed as missing. Names that inscribed on the walls on all our cemeteries.
One of those listed on the wall of missing right behind you is Bobby Joe Younger. He graduated from McKinney High school in 1942. After attending Texas A&M College for a year, he enlisted in the U.S Army Air Force. He served with the 323rd Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force as a Ball Turret Gunner on a B-17. The Ball Turret was a sphere attached underneath the plane where a machine gun was positioned and could rotate 360 degrees. On November 2nd, 1944, he was sent on his 13th and last mission to Merseburg, Germany with a crew of 9 men. During a bomb run, their plane was hit by flak. As they fell out of formation, German fighter planes attacked. Witnesses reported having seen the plane burst into flame. The plane crashed 2 km outside the town of Barby, Germany. Three of the crew members survived and were taken as prisoners of war. One airmen was killed and identified in 1945. The rest were declared missing in action.
Department of Defense historians and analysts aided by German researchers eventually located the potential crash site of the plane, and in 2015 and 2016, two recovery operations took place. After analysis, they were able to individually identify Bobby Younger, Robert Shoemaker, and John Brady. In June 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that the remains of the five U.S. unaccounted-for-crewmembers would be buried as a group in Arlington National Cemetery. Bobby Younger’s name now has a rosette pinned next to it – he is no longer missing. You can see his name and the rosette when you leave the cemetery.
The partnership between Belgium and the United States is built upon the foundation these men and women built. What they accomplished. They not only restored freedom and democracy, they remain with us as eternal sentinels to remind us of the high price of freedom. I have been so impressed by the people of Belgium as they work tirelessly to keep the memory of the fallen alive. During these troubled times, it is even more important than to remember what happened here nearly 80 years ago.
The American Battle Monuments Commission is one of our finest federal agencies. You are always here, always taking care, always listening to families, always fulfilling your solemn duty. Thank you for everything you do day in, day, rain or shine. You make us all proud.
With respect and humility, may we continue to stand together on the broad shoulders of all whose brave deeds and sacrifices we memorialize today.
Thank you all.