MARGRATEN, Netherlands – Thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David, row after row.
This 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 them, Private Kenneth L. Peterson of Rockford, who died serving his country in the vicinity of Dinslaken, Germany, March 24, 1945.
Through The Faces of Margraten project in May 2015 the Dutch will pay special tribute to these soldiers by decorating their more than 10,000 graves and names on the Walls of the Missing with personal photos of the soldiers.
“Maybe you’re related to Pvt. Peterson, or to any of the other soldiers, and have a photo tucked away in an album you haven’t looked through in years,” says Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves, which is organizing The Faces of Margraten tribute.
“Please look again, and if you find one, help us honor Pvt. Peterson’s sacrifice and that of thousands of other Americans by contributing the photo to The Faces of Margraten.”
Currently, there is a personal photo available for about a third of the 10,023 American soldiers buried in or memorialized at the cemetery.
“We have been impressed by all the support for the project so far,” said Vonk.
However, thousands of photos are still missing, including one of Pvt. Peterson, who served with the 315th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division.
“Each photo matters, even if the quality is not great, because it means another soldier who will be honored,” Vonk added.
The photos will be placed next to the headstones from May 2-5 when the Netherlands observes the 70th anniversary of its liberation.
“If you look at all the photos, you will see many young men and women, sometimes with their parents, with their brothers and sisters, their friends, sometimes with their own children,” said Vonk.
“Looking at these photos makes you realize that they were not just soldiers; they were young individuals like us with a family, friends, interests, and dreams.
“We could have been them had we lived in a different time and place.”
To submit photos or for more information visit TheFacesOfMargraten.com.