The World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial Margraten is a war cemetery which lies in the village of Margraten 10 km (6 mi) east of Maastricht, in the most southern part of the Netherlands.
If you have never been there it is a well worth place visting. 8.301 brave men are buried there and there are another 2,000 or so memorials of men missing in action. You will feel humble when you leave.Every time I visited there as a child I only had one question”Why did those men give their lives for people living in a foreign land?”
One of those men was Private Walter Cline Wetzel.
Wetzel joined the Army from Roseville, Michigan in July 1941,and by April 3, 1945 was serving as a private first class in the 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division. On that day, in Birken, Germany, Wetzel smothered the blasts of German-thrown grenades with his body, sacrificing himself to protect those around him. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor ten months later, on February 26, 1946, by President Harry S. Truman.
During the Allied advance into Germany at the beginning of April 1945, he purposely smothered enemy grenade blasts in order to protect his fellow soldiers and he died as a result at the age of 25. In addition to the Medal of Honor, he also was awarded the Purple Heart, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. His Medal of Honor citation reads:(the picture below is not the actual medal of honor)
“Pfc. Wetzel, an acting squad leader with the Antitank Company of the 13th Infantry, was guarding his platoon’s command post in a house at Birken, Germany, during the early morning hours of 3 April 1945, when he detected strong enemy forces moving in to attack. He ran into the house, alerted the occupants and immediately began defending the post against heavy automatic weapons fire coming from the hostile troops. Under cover of darkness the Germans forced their way close to the building where they hurled grenades, 2 of which landed in the room where Pfc. Wetzel and the others had taken up firing positions. Shouting a warning to his fellow soldiers, Pfc. Wetzel threw himself on the grenades and, as they exploded, absorbed their entire blast, suffering wounds from which he died. The supreme gallantry of Pfc. Wetzel saved his comrades from death or serious injury and made it possible for them to continue the defense of the command post and break the power of a dangerous local counterthrust by the enemy. His unhesitating sacrifice of his life was in keeping with the U.S. Army’s highest traditions of bravery and heroism.”
Dear sir I thank you for your sacrifice for I know now you did not sacrifice yourself for a foreign land but for a much greater good,freedom for all and the preservation of mankind. Because of you and your brothers in arms I grew up a free man.
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