Maintaining Thanks Over the Decades
In the US, we recognize the fourth Thursday in November as our official Thanksgiving Day. We pause to give thanks, recognize our blessings, and enjoy time with family.
Just before Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of joining others from the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force as we toured some of the World War II Airfields and Memorials in England. Many of the exhibits were impressive and educational but what stood out to me the most was the gratitude displayed by the English people, not only in the larger well known museums, but in the smaller volunteer ones as well.
One of the first museums we visited was Parham Airfield Museum. A local farmer, Percy Kindred, admired the Americans and transformed the Control Tower, that had been built on his family's farm during the war, into a memorial to the men who gave their lives while serving in the 390th Bomb Group. Today the museum is still totally volunteer driven and the local community is motivated by gratitude for the sacrifice of our soldiers and are committed to keeping their stories alive.
Next we visited the 100th Bomb Group Museum, USAAF Station #139, Thorpe Abbotts, again started and maintained by volunteers who are committed to remember the sacrifice and giving thanks to those who served. They open the museum to the public for free and maintain it purely through donations.
Old Buckenham, 453rd Bomb Group (B-24 Group of Jimmy Stewart) was next on our trip. This museum was started by locals, James and Trish Cleary, who learned the history of the area from Pat Ramm. Pat was a young boy during the war who befriended American Soldiers and he wanted to keep their stories alive. After Pat's passing, James Cleary began the Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum and Airfield. He and his wife run "Jimmy's Cafe", named after the famous Jimmy Stewart, and share the stories of those who served in the 453rd Bomb Group.
The Old English Rose Garden in Bury St. Edmunds contains three memorial seats and a memorial pillar dedicated to the 94th Bombardment Group. A local lady tending to the vines along the garden wall heard me speaking to my husband and asked if we were Americans. She proceeded to share that the garden is a memorial to the Americans who served and how grateful the community is for their sacrifice. They hold multiple memorial services in the garden throughout the year.
As shown in the photo, Bottisham Airfield Museum gave as a warm welcome with a ride around the airfield in a WWII jeep, displayed their replica of a P51 mustang, gave us a tour of the museum, and an authentic English countryside tea similar to a tea experience in the 1940's. And as we departed, they shared their admiration for the Mighty Eighth Air Force by saluting our tour group who was representing the Mighty Eighth.
Throughout our tour, there were many more casual encounters with the English people who still show their gratitude to the Americans who served and sacrificed during World War II.
The Cambridge American Cemetery is a forever memorial to those who did not return from their mission. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,811 of our war dead; 5,127 names are recorded on the Walls of the Missing. Again, our guide was another example of the respect and gratitude still felt by the English people.
World War II changed the world and we owe a great deal of gratitude to not only the men and women who served but to their families who felt the impact of their service. This trip reiterated to me the willingness of our great nation to take the hard road and sacrifice for freedom.
In addition to remembering those who served in WWII, please consider and honor the service and sacrifice that continues through the thousands who have served or continue to serve in our military. If you employ veterans, remember to thank them for their service!
"No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks."