Adopt a grave in Margraten
April 17, 2005 8 Comments
The American Cemetery in Margraten, near Maastricht, is not quite like any other American cemetery in Europe: it is the only one where the fallen soldiers’ graves have been adopted by local inhabitants.
The adoption programme started in 1946 and the more than 18,000 American graves at the time were soon adopted on a voluntary basis by Dutch families, who committed themselves to maintaining the graves well, adorning them regularly with fresh flowers, and to keeping in touch whenever possible with the soldiers’ relatives in the United States.
One such caretaker is Rick Mommers, a 19-year-old highschool student from Voerendaal. Rick adopted his first grave when he was 14, after a school trip to the cemetery in Margraten. “It was not part of a project or for an organisation. It was a purely individual decision”, as a tribute to the “million young soldiers who fought thousands of kilometres from their homes and who, for many of them, lost their lives for our freedom”, Rick explains.
Pfc. Alfred G. Corgan
Last Christmas Rick volunteered for a fourth grave, belonging to a soldier named Pfc. Alfred G. Corgan. “The one small thing I can do back for Pfc. Alfred G. Corgan is to pay my respect to him by putting some flowers on his grave at days like Christmas and Easter when he would be happy to be home with his loved family and friends”, Rick says. By doing this, he adds, “I have the feeling I give him at least a sense that his sacrifice has not been forgotten”.
The young student decided to find out more about the soldiers whose graves he had adopted and who were about his age when they died. But “the graves I adopted didn’t have a correspondence address. I searched for the soldiers’ families myself. I sent probably about hundreds of emails and maybe about 50-60 letters to everyone (webmasters, newspapers, veterans, town halls, historians etc.) who maybe could help me gather information”, he says.
In the case of Pfc. Corgan, who died on 12 April 1945 – less than a month before the end of the war – Rick discovered a book where the soldier’s death is described. Corgan was injured during a battle and drowned after the boat he was being transported in overturned when shells exploded nearby. Rick was also able to get in touch with Corgan’s sister-in-law, who provided him with many personal details regarding Corgan’s pre-war life in Walton, Delaware.
Rick Mommers says that he will be very grateful to anyone who will send him additional information about the three other soldiers whose graves he is caring for: Julius S. Hass, Francis T. Fernan and Adrian B. Hoskins. And “maybe after my exams I will even adopt some more graves”, he says.
Source: Crossroads print issue, April 2005
Update April 2006: Rick Mommers has now created a website in memory of his four adopted soldiers.
More information: Grave Adoption Association
- Netherlands American Military Cemetery at Margraten – a Brief History
- American Cemetery Margraten
- A brief narrated tour of Netherlands American Cemetery’s landscaped grounds, architecture, and works of art.
The Margraten Cemetery has long been linked especially to the 3rd Armored Division, which held regular ceremonies there from 1957 to 1991 honoring its WWII dead, including its great WWII commander, Major Gen. Maurice Rose. This video is a compilation of U.S. Army images of the cemetery in 1945, a short Dutch film from 1946, and a talk by the Cemetery’s superintendent in 1995. Original video’s and research came from Don R. Marsh of 3AD.com web staff and a 2AD & 3AD WWII veteran.