After our visit to Ypres, the Hill 60 Battlefield and the French Mass Cemetery we wanted to visit one more WWI Memorial as we made our way from Bruges to the second city on our trip, Ghent. The American Cemetery is located in the town of Waregem and is the final resting stop for 411 American soldiers. The names of 43 missing soldiers are inscribed on the chapel, but have no known graves.
These men had died in battle not far from the current cemetery in the waning weeks of the war. We just happened to arrive on the Memorial Day Holiday in the US. That is a Federal holiday off from work, which we usually parlay into a longer weekend trip somewhere (we’ve used this weekend to visit Paris, South America, London, and Italy). The weather was beautiful during our visit, sunny, warm with a slightly sweet smell on the breezy air. Spring in West Flanders was amazing.
The cemetery was quiet, but it looked like we had either just missed or arrived too early for a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Cemetery, as dozens of folding chairs were stacked along the periphery.
We spent about 45 minutes walking the grounds of this small memorial. I was looking for last names that I recognized, finding none. The first grave we came upon was the most moving to me. Walter Lang from Ohio had died in battle on November 11, 1918 – the final official day of the war. This young soldier was so close to returning home to his family. So many of the markers had this tragic date engraved on them.
Have you visited the American Cemetery in West Flanders? Do you visit memorials like this when you travel or do you actively avoid them?