Day 6: Unlike any other day
After getting back on the bus, I plopped down beside our veteran George Skerkowski. Looking me straight in the eye, he said "I have never been apart of anything like that before, and I don't think anyone here will ever be again."
He was right. Earlier in the week, our group and our four veterans were granted a special invitation to the burial of Private Albert Laubenstein, who had died 70 years ago after being killed in 1945. He was buried in the Canadian military cemetery of Bergen - Op - Zoom. The remains of the Saskatoon native had been found in June 2014, and he today, he would be buried with military honours among his fallen comrades. His name still remains on panel 10 of the missing soldiers in the Groesbeek cemetery - soon be removed.
It was an honour for us to be invited, not only to pay our respects to the family of Laubenstein who have flown out for the military burial - but to be able to see this beautiful, and small cemetery of 1,284 brave Canadians.
___________________________________________________________________ The Ceremony
^ Proud to see Frank Fordham & Ray Lewis used for the featured photograph in the CTV news coverage surrounding the extraordinary event. You can click on the picture to read CTV's full article.
A close up of Laubenstein's headstone and the wreath for him and his family. It's wonderful to see this commitment to a man who was lost over 70 years ago. >
^ Having our four boys standing in front of what will be Private Albert Laubenstein's head stone in preparation for his burial.
^ The family of Albert Laubenstein, along with the Lincoln & Wellend Regiment, of which private Laubenstein had been apart of - was kind enough to give our boys shade, keep them wam & comfortable, and place them in the closest seats to the memorial ceremony. Such hospitality made for a really lovely welcome.
^ I love this picture - I don't know what Bud is gesturing about - perhaps it's because we are just taking so many pictures of the four of them! What can I say, they are our heroes.
^ A wonderful group shot - I absolutely loved this picture too - as some of our group sit with our vets in the shade before the ceremony begins. From left to right: Sheila, Gordon, Bob, Oksana, Ray, George, Bud, & Frank.
^ I took part in the snuggling, by keeping Bud's legs warm.
^ Among signing autographs for the Dutch who shyly came to thank them for their service and for being with them today - we recieved a warm & pleasant surprise from Gerard Hendricks, president of the 005 Canadian Legion of the Netherlands - the only Legion outside of Canadian soil. He is a dear friend to us and has provided us with extraordinary support and assistance with our travels to the Netherlands. It was truly a great moment.
^ Pictures of Private Albert Laubenstein - born in Saskatoon, he was only 30 years old when he died, and was found along side the Maas River by a 35 year old hobbyist with a metal detector in June 2014. "At first, we thought it was a animal bone, but digging deeper I realized that this wasn't the case...then I saw the gold ring with the 'G' engraved on it. That's when I called the police." Said Govert de Lorm. The 'G' turned out to be for a ring he wore in honour of his late father. You can read more of his discovery in the National Post, here.
^ Albert Laubenstein's family members Glen Laubenstein, and Sarah Penton pose at his head stone. They were wonderfully grateful to have us there thanking us for making it all this way. We in turn, were a bit speechless, they had allowed us to come to their uncle's military burial, we were grateful for being there.
^ During the ceremony, it started to rain, and the dedicated Lincoln & Wellend Regiment, the very regiment Private Albert Laubenstein was apart of, held their position right on through, without even a flinch. They were proud to bear witness, and to carry Albert back to his final resting place.
^ The sky cleared up on our way back from the ceremony. I take a look back, and take a snap shot of the beautiful Canadian cemetery in a place that was a very different reality 70 years ago. You have to take a moment to think, that without the sacrifice made by men like Albert, we wouldn't have ever had a country like this. The ceremony was a moving one, an emotional one, but an important one. I think George was right - that is something we all were honoured to be apart of - something some of us might never get the chance to do in a life time.
___________________________________________________________________ More than just the Ceremony
Three of our travellers, the Durant family, had another reason to visit Bergen - Op - Zoom, and it quickly became the main reason for their efforts to embark on this journey with us. Brother & sister, Richard & Carol, were finally able to find where their uncle had finally came to rest. Upon thier visit, they left an array of beautiful flowers, Canadian flags, and a laminate photo with some background information of the person who was not just a soldier but a loved family member who had never been forgotten, even after 70 years.
The pictures they left were impactful for anyone walking by. Many stopped to pay their respects after the Durants had left. The CWGC, who had been there at the time of the burial, not only offered their condolences, but also their powerful promise, to maintain his photograph, information, and flowers completely in their care. I'm overjoyed that they managed to come on behalf of their family and honour their uncle in this way.