|Dutch Children performed songs and dances for their Liberators|
People often ask why I work for Hope For The Warriors® and why this work is so important to me. The honor that I give to service members and veterans is directly related to my parents.
Liberation Day is May 5 in The Netherlands, the day that the country was freed from Nazi rule back in 1945. My parents immigrated to the United States in 1956 with very little. But coming to the United States with almost nothing, was better than trying to farm in a small country, still struggling after two world wars.
My parents knew firsthand the terror of living under the rule of an evil leader. They knew the fear of an unexpected knock at the door and unwelcome German soldiers searching their home. My parents tell stories of home searches—Germans looking for both people as well as hidden food supplies. Their voices still held some of their fears as they shared their stories, but also some pride in the tricks that were used and never discovered.
|My Mother with her family|
My mother’s family had a shelter—dug just large enough for her parents, herself, and her ten brothers and sisters(Yes…13 of them!). And yet they still managed to hide one or two Allie soldiers that were separated from their platoon. My father biked throughout his farming community, collecting food on a little cart that trailed behind him. It was not until years later that he learned that the food was for those fighting in the resistance.
|My father on his farm|
My daughter once interviewed my parents for her history project and asked the question, “Who was your hero?” My parents quickly responded, “We had no heroes. If you looked to anyone as a hero, they would have been taken away and killed.”
The Allies and the Liberation of the Netherlands changed that. The service members became their heroes and that has never changed, even 70 years later. Because of those men, I did not have the same experiences that my parents had growing up. I have no idea what it is like to live in fear of a knock on the door.
Growing up, Memorial Day meant parades in my small town. Following the parade was a Memorial Day Service, honoring those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. As a child, I wanted to run off with my friends but my mom never allowed that. My mom’s life, and therefore my life, would have been significantly different had it not been for the sacrifices of those who served. Those men paid the ultimate sacrifice, giving me the life I have today. She was determined that I learn this important lesson.
|My parents married in 1956 and boarded this ship 10 days later|
Not everyone can draw such a direct line from these sacrifices to his or her daily life. Yet each one of us lives in a country with freedoms and privileges vastly greater than the majority of people in this world. My mom and dad’s experiences allowed me to see both ends of the freedom spectrum, and thanks to that important lesson, I recognize the need to thank and support our military. And perhaps even more important, because of the thousands of men and women who have served and continue to serve in our military, I am conscious of and grateful for these freedoms for my parents, my family, and myself.