Cambridge ceremony honors cost of freedom
MADINGLEY, England — A bright English sun threw shadows of crosses and Stars of David across the hallowed ground at Cambridge American Cemetery as 1,500 people gathered Monday for a ceremony to remember those who died fighting America’s wars.
“We in Cambridge are proud of this piece of America in our midst,” said Michael Marshall, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, the Queen’s representative in the county.
He said the 3,819 graves and the 5,126 names on the Wall of the Missing are a constant expression of the sacrifice required for what we enjoy today.
“Their legacy is a reminder to us of the cost and value of freedom,” he said.
Attending the ceremony was a mixture of Americans and Britons. Several World War II veterans were in the audience, and they were asked to stand and be recognized, bringing a long round of applause from the crowd.
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe band played, and 119 wreaths were laid along the Wall of the Missing, which includes the name of bandleader Glenn Miller carved among the missing.
Four F-15 fighters from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, helped put an exclamation point on the ceremony with an impeccably timed missing man formation flyover.
Also attending were about 200 active-duty servicemembers, nearly all of them taking part in the ceremony, including 120 from Lakenheath who helped lay wreaths, and a color guard from RAF Molesworth. Others acted as escorts and provided security.
But despite the presence of roughly 10,000 active-duty troops stationed within one hour of the cemetery, those who attended simply to pay respects were as rare as an untrimmed hedge or a wayward weed at the well-manicured cemetery.
Airman 1st Class James Calvin, a firefighter with the Civil Engineer Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, helped lay wreaths.
Calvin, grandson of a World War II veteran, said it was an honor to take part in the ceremony. “It’s overwhelming to see all the crosses,” he said.
When asked why so few active-duty airmen were in attendance, despite having a day off work, he replied, “different priorities.”
There was talk of a high operations tempo and recent and ongoing deployments. But Airman 1st Class Jason Lamber, also a firefighter at RAF Lakenheath, said, “A lot of them don’t understand, and they take it for granted.”
Lt. Gen. Arthur Lichte, USAFE’s vice commander and a keynote speaker Monday, said in his remarks that no one should take for granted the sacrifice of such people.
He wondered, “How can we possibly take for granted freedom when we walk among these rows of white markers?”
Behind every cross and Star of David, he said, is a grieving family, a hometown in mourning.
Some day, said Lichte, there will be no more surviving comrades to come and pay respects. Family members who knew the fallen will be no more.
But “the day will never come when America forgets them for what they did for this country and the world,” he said.
He said it is the duty of those alive today to maintain the memory of these fallen and pass along to those who come after what they did and what it meant.
“Many tomorrows from now,” he said, “they will understand and remember this because we did not forget today.”