Ambassador Michael M. Adler at Ardennes American Cemetery – Memorial Day 2022
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 all 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. In those darkest hours, the world united to not only defend and liberate our countries but to build a better world for future generations.
The heroes buried here me came from all across America. Most of them will have never left their home state, let alone, travel to Europe. They didn’t know the people of Belgium, but they knew that democracy had to restored and Nazi oppression had to be defeated. One of those heroes is Major Sylvan Feld. Major Feld was a P-47 pilot in the 373 Fighter Group. His plane was shot down on August 13, 1944, near Argentan, France, during a strafing mission against retreating German columns.
Major Feld was able to bail out and land safely, but behind enemy lines. He was able to find shelter with locals and later was escorted towards friendly lines. Sadly, on August 20, 1944, in Bernay, Eure, the group of people he was with was strafed by an allied plane, and he was fatally wounded. He was buried in a village in France and his remains were recovered and identified in 1959. At the request of his mother, he was buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery. I am honored to welcome Major Feld’s cousin, Mr. Bill Lyons, and family here today. Mr. Lyons is a WWII veteran as well and was a P-51 pilot in the war. I have a strong personal connection to pilots as my father was a B-17 pilot during the war in the Pacific theater.
Mr. Lyons, thank you for your service. Know that your cousin and all those buried here are never forgotten. We owe a tremendous debt to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. 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 memorial of all those fallen alive. During these troubled times, it is more important than ever before 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.