This is part 1 in a series on the commemoration and unveiling of the monument for the B-17 Mission Belle.
The Mission Belle was a B-17 Bomber that crashed along the Lekdijk between Streefkerk and Nieuw-Lekkerland on 1 December 1943.
A few years ago, several members of the community felt a monument should be erected to preserve the history of the Mission Belle and the stories of the crew members. Planning began, research was conducted, families were located, and on 29 September 2018, the dream of creating a monument was unveiled in reality.
I attended the day’s events starting in the morning where the Band of Brothers re-enactors, some of whom work at Delware Company who designed the flight suits and some artwork for the event, were in attendance. The usual coffee, tea, and cookies were served as we gathered and waited for the families to arrive. Outside several WWII trucks and jeeps were waiting which would later transport the family members to the monument.
Just before 11:00 a.m., the family members arrived. With them arrived the crew and a lot of others from WWII. I stood near the top of the stairs where they entered the room, saying hello and shaking hands, or asking if certain people were ok. While I was there to support my re-enactor friends, honor the crew, and attend the unveiling, it was clear that I was also there to help provide peace, healing, and space for everything and everyone. Several people required this and I was happy to provide it.
The energy of the entire building shifted as everyone arrived. Many emotions were felt from joy, sadness, relief, disbelief that they were standing in this place, happiness, gratitude, and many other emotions. Several of my friends felt the same when the families arrived. It was clear that a lot of healing would take place for those living and those long gone.
Several speeches were given to the families to describe the history of the Mission Belle, the formation of the foundation, the creation of the monument, and the day’s events. As an American who picks up only a few Dutch words, I was grateful my husband Johan was asked to translate the Dutch stories into English so the American families could understand what was being said.
In the primary speech about the monument and what it is important to have it in the Netherlands, was the idea that freedom is not free, freedom is not a given thing, and freedom demands responsibility in words and deeds. The Netherlands have lived in relative peace for almost 75 years, something unheard of in most countries. The younger generation takes this for granted, as if freedom has always been present. It has not and the Dutch are determined to help keep the memory alive of those who fought and died for their freedom.
A couple of eye witnesses spoke, in Dutch, about the crash of the Mission Belle and what happened to the crew. It was very moving. Then several family members spoke and told stories about their family member who was part of the crew. The families thanked the Dutch for creating the monument and remembering. As one man, Paul stood and told the story about his family member and read a poem written by his granddaughter, I could see the crew standing behind him in a half-circle providing support to this man who shed many tears as he spoke. A lot of healing took place. I was able to speak to Paul afterward and he like many other family members, were still in a bit of disbelief they were standing there and everything was happening. Little did they know what else was to come. The Dutch definitely know how to stir the emotions and commemorate the past.
We enjoyed a lovely lunch after the speeches and then the flight crew prepared for the briefing. I’ll go more into that in my next article.
I hope you enjoy the slideshow of roughly 20 photos of the morning’s events. Learn more about the Mission Belle Foundation.
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