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UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 30, 2007

MADINGLEY

A cold, windy winter’s rain couldn’t have picked a worse hour to revisit the English spring Monday as hundreds flocked to the Madingley American Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

The terribly gusting winds and low visibility eschewed the scheduled flyovers of the last remaining airworthy B-17 and a contingent of F-15Es in the “missing man” formation, but did not conspire to keep scores of young and old from both sides of the Atlantic from honoring the fallen.

“We owe to them a debt, which we may never be able to repay,” said Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Hugh Duberly, during his address through the sweeping rain. “So we come here today to recognize their honor.”

Madingley American Cemetery is the 30.5-acre rural Cambridgeshire final resting place for 3,812 Americans who died during World War II, the majority of which served in the Air Force’s predecessor, the Army Air Corps, in East Anglia during the war.

Established in 1943 and first dedicated in 1956, the cemetery is also home to a 472-foot-long wall etched with the names of another 5,125 Americans who perished in the war but whose remains were never found.

It’s a hallowed place that draws thousands of visitors each year, many who come to wander among the identical cross and Star of David headstones in respectful silence.

But twice a year — Memorial Day and Veterans Day — the American and British militaries collaborate to host ceremonies that draw hundreds. The RAF Mildenhall-based 100th Air Refueling Wing hosted Monday’s event.

“I’ve been here for several years, and have always wanted to do this, but have always been deployed when this happens,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Garcia, 27, of Atlanta. “So I’m glad I made it out this year.”

No doubt the nasty weather kept some at bay, but hundreds still trudged dutifully through the late-morning ceremony with an air of resolution, if somehow to be that much closer to the heroes underfoot.

“The chaps who are buried here did wonderful things for us, so we have to repay them somehow,” said May Fowler, who represented the Royal British Legion Sawston and Pampisford Battalion.

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