Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Memorial Day, Margraten
Today we honour the heroes who liberated us seventy years ago, and who made the ultimate sacrifice.
One of them was Gerald 'Mike' Kight.
For nearly seventy years his name stood on the Tablets of the Missing.
Here in Margraten.
He was reported missing after heavy fighting in the hills around Groesbeek.
Mike's three brothers returned, but he didn't come home.
His absence left a gaping hole in the family.
His mother placed a little flag in the window.
As a symbol of hope that he would return.
Hope that lasted for decades, because his story was passed down through the family.
A few years ago, Mike Kight's remains were found on farmland near Groesbeek.
His body was surrounded by bullet casings.
Proof that he went on fighting right to the end.
A bronze rosette has now been placed next to his name on the Tablets of the Missing, to show that he has been found.
Mike's ashes were buried with his mother.
At last they were reunited.
His journey home - one that took seventy years too long - was finally over.
The story of Mike Kight is one of the many stories that bring us together today.
His story is about hope, about heroism and about sacrifices made in the name of freedom.
Sacrifices almost too great to imagine.
Eight thousand, three hundred and one American soldiers found their last resting place here.
One thousand, seven hundred and twenty-two names are recorded on the Tablets of the Missing.
A rosette has been placed next to seventy-nine of them.
These numbers are almost impossible to conceive.
Yet at the same time, these thousands of white crosses make them only too real.
Their simple beauty is heart-rending.
Because they represent lives.
Lives of men, often only in their twenties, who carried the world on their shoulders.
They remain forever young.
Why did some die and others come back?
Why was Mike Kight killed, while his three brothers returned home?
We don't have an answer.
That is the random cruelty of war and the random cruelty of death.
But those war heroes had something in common.
And that was courage.
The dauntless courage of brave young people, who fought for our freedom.
The kind of courage that should inspire us, in turn.
Because freedom isn't something we can simply rely on forever.
It needs to be maintained, defended and passed on.
And that's our job.
The fallen will not be forgotten.
We will continue to speak their names and tell their stories.
All the graves in Margraten and many of the names on the Tablets of the Missing have been adopted.
By local people, by families and classes of schoolchildren.
Year in, year out, they look after the graves and write to the next of kin.
So the families know that their loved ones, though fallen, are never forgotten.
Neither in the United States nor in the Netherlands.
This illustrates the unbreakable bond between our two countries.
An age-old bond, which will endure because we cherish the same values.
We share an unshakeable belief in democracy, freedom and justice.
And we are prepared to make sacrifices for it - even the ultimate sacrifice.
Today we, the people of the Netherlands, say thank you.
We say it with the deepest respect and from the bottom of our hearts.
We say thank you to our liberators.
Thank you for enabling us to stand here today in freedom.
And we bow our heads in memory of the fallen.
They will live on in our memories and we will hand down their stories.
Like a little flag in the window, from generation to generation.