Henri Chapelle

Not too far from the US Mail mailbox I found an arrow sign demarked with “US Cemetery.”

It had no mileage on it, or in this case kilometers, but I followed the arrow sign until I came upon another, and then another and yet again another, all the while climbing up higher and higher and higher.

A good hour of pedaling eventually led me to my destination:

The Henri Chapelle American Cemetery.

The cemetery and memorial are dedicated to 7,989 US Soldiers, most of whom died while liberating the hill top on September 12, 1944 during German counter-offensive in the Ardennes popularly known as the “Battle of the Bulge”.

To my surprise, the cemetery is maintained by the US Government: the American Battle Monuments Commission, which was established by law in 1923.

The cemetery lies on 57 acres.

That’s a deceptive number, however.

The site actually appears to be much bigger than that because it sits on the top of a ridge crest.

And the spectacular and expansive view of the Berwinne stream it overlooks.
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The memorial contains a museum and chapel on respective ends of the memorial; and the cemetery is overlooked by a “bronze statue of the Archangel bestowing a laurel branch upon the heroic Dead.”

The pillars of the monument “are engraved with the seals of the wartime 48 states, 3 territories, and the District of Columbia”.
Florida was easy to find – it has a very distinctive seal – but my native state of Maryland proved to be the hardest. I almost gave up trying to find it, but vowed not to stop looking until I succeeded, even with rain clouds gliding in across the Berwinne Valley.

This was an instance where a glimpse did not serve me well. My initial quick glances gave way to incremental cross elimination of each pillar. Even then I had to go back and inspect each pillar separately.

Until finally – Eureka! – after staring at a seal that had no state name designated on it at all, but was rather inscribed completely in Latin, I spotted the unique Maryland Flag within the seal … no other state has such a distinctive flag in my opinion.

But back to the engraved seals. All the other states and territories had their names clearly spelled out around the rim of the seal.

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I’m still not sure why Maryland was different.

Anyhow, it’s the 4th of July – my first such 4th not on American soil.

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But in walking the open air hallway between the pillars, each engraved with a state seals, and the American flag flapping overhead, I felt strangely at home among the other European tourists, and honored to be there.
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