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Those whom we honored (the final eulogies)

The chapel interior at Luxembourg American Cemetery.

Most of us on the trip completed research for soldiers buried at Luxembourg American Cemetery. It's situated right outside of Luxembourg City and it receives a good number of visitors every year. The fact that General George Patton is buried there has something to do with their high visitorship. In fact, the initial attempt to bury him along with the soldiers failed when the foot traffic to his grave wore out the grass. Patton's grave now sits by itself near the top of the hill at the cemetery, near the chapel and tablets of the missing.

Suzy's soldier.
Six of us delivered eulogies that day: five teachers and Kaat. When I had the chance to listen to students' eulogies back in 2017, I was struck by how something of each student's character worked itself into the story they told. I still get a bit of a sense of that with eulogies delivered by teachers. However, the element that works itself more powerfully into the teachers' eulogies is a sense of the character of the towns and communities from which the servicemen came. Suzy delivered a eulogy for an Iowa farmboy who died in Europe. I could hear the sounds of a rural farmtown as she gave it, the kind of town a tenant farmer would find odd jobs in (and therefore lose his draft deferment for farm labor). The quiet dignity of a Midwest family who wanted their fallen hero's Purple Heart draped on his headstone also struck me as characteristic of his (and Suzy's) community.

Amy's soldier.

Amy eulogized a devout Latino Catholic. She conveyed the dignity and pride of a humble farming family who lost a father and who saw that father's son's serve their country later. Her soldier's family sent a medallion from their parish to be put atop the headstone.

Kaat's soldier.

Kaat delivered a eulogy for an American of Belgian ancestry. In fact, his Flemish surname caught Kaat's attention on a previous trip to this cemetery. He and his family migrated to the U.S. between the wars. Kaat's eulogy impressed on me the sadness which a new American family in Omaha must have felt when their son died on their old world homeland.

Jason's soldier.

Jason's story shared with us the lament of a young black man who served in an armored unit in a Jim Crow Army. This black unit wasn't given the ammunition for training that white units received. I chuckled at the image of Deovore and his comrades racing their training tanks across proving grounds like kids (well, in some ways they were). And I'm grateful that Jason shared with us of how just recently Deovore's hometown in South Carolina replaced the memorial marker in their town so that the names of white and black veterans in the war were no longer listed separately.

Alan's soldier is listed on this tablet. 

The eulogy for Alan's fallen hero quieted me. It was for a sergeant who was definitely killed in action, but whose body could never be recovered. The loss of that humble leader from Indiana sounded like a story made for Hollywood, but without the Hollywood ending. In other words, it was authentic. And sad. And a reminder of how losses like those of Sergeant Raub simply leave a void.

My soldier's grave.

I wonder to what extent I was able to convey rural Chester County in my own eulogy. Charlie came from a community between West Chester and Downingtown. It was an area that was very rural and even poor in the 1940s. It's changed in profound ways since then, and the Simcoxes are examples and beneficiaries of that change. I hope I was able to share with my friends the sadness I feel that Charlie missed out on that.

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