Editorial

Sneddon among those who helped liberate the Netherlands

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David, row after row is what one sees when overlooking the American War Cemetery in the town of Margraten, the Netherlands. The markers are testimony to the sacrifices made by many young American men and women for the freedom of Europe during World War II.

Among the 10,000 buried or memorialized there is Clay County's Thomas Sneddon.

Enlistment records show he was born in Clay County and had four years of high school. He lived with parents, Thomas and Clyda, and two siblings on Walnut Street in Brazil. He was 28 and served as a Corporal when he was killed less than a month before the Allied victory in Europe in May of 1945, also known as V-E Day.

Last year, through the first Faces of Margraten tribute, a personal photo was available for about one third of the 10,023 American soldiers buried in or memorialized in the Walls of the Missing at the cemetery. But, organizers of the non-profit effort say the search is continuing its search for the others, like Sneddon, who have not been connected with a photo.

In May, the second Faces of Margraten will take place. Like in 2015, around 25,000 Dutch citizens will likely come out to visit the tribute and pay their respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of the Netherlands and other European countries.

"The number of people who came out showed that people widely continue to recognize the importance of remembering those to whom we owe our freedom, even 70 years after the end of World War II," says Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves, which organizes The Faces of Margraten tribute. "Moreover, the visitors' responses revealed that people were touched by the fact that they could look straight into the eyes of our liberators,"

Vonk encourages families, friends or other acquaintances of those, like Sneddon, to help them put a face with those responsible for their freedom.

"Maybe you're related to one of the soldiers, and have a photo tucked away in an album you haven't looked through in years," he said. "Each photo matters, even if the quality is not great, because it means another soldier who will be honored."

Photos can be submitted through the project's website, www.TheFacesOfMargraten.com. All submitted photos as well as other information on these soldiers can already be found in the foundation's Fields of Honor -- Database. The photos will be placed next to the headstones from May 1-5, when the Netherlands observes the 71st anniversary of its liberation.

Click here to view Sneddon's page: http://www.fieldsofhonor-database.com/index.php/american-war-cemetery-margraten-.... The page can also be see below.

Adopting graves

Since 1945, Dutch locals have adopted the graves of the soldiers buried in Margraten. Out of heartfelt respect and gratitude, the graves' adopters regularly visit the graves and decorate them with flowers. Many of the graves' adopters also continue to correspond with the families of soldiers back home in the United States. The care for the graves of their loved ones has been a comfort to many of these families and the foundation of long-lasting friendships between Dutch and American families.

Seventy-one years after the war, younger generations have taken up the responsibility to remember these soldiers. "When I speak to people they sometimes say that the youth no longer cares about the past and those who fought for their freedom. I do not believe that. Many young Dutch people show an interest in the war and continue to visit these cemeteries, and many, like me, have adopted a grave and are volunteers for The Faces of Margraten tribute. We will continue to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for many years to come," Vonk, 23 himself, concludes.

More information about the project can be found at www.thefacesofmargraten.com. More information on the foundation can be found at www.svaao.nl. For press inquiries, please contact: info@degezichtenvanmargraten.nl.