For one brother, the solemnity of Memorial Day carried a silver lining.
WWII veteran Jim Wendlandt survived the war, but not without a cost. His older brother, Sgt. Walter Wendlandt, died in battle after taking shrapnel to the shoulder in 1944. He was buried across the Belgium border at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery.
Wendlandt’s family tragedy from so many years ago is tempered by the knowledge that his brother’s grave is faithfully maintained by a local Dutchman who feels indebted to the U.S. military. The Oregonian reports that Wendlandt learned of this caretaker through email.
Now 92 and long-since accustomed to a world without Walter, Jim received another letter last Tuesday that sent his memory swirling back to his brother just in time for Memorial Day. It came in the form of an email from the Netherlands, signed by a Dutchman named Riny van de Pol.
“I have adopted the grave of Sgt. Walter E. Wendlandt,” the email read. “Whenever I feel like and on special occasions, I drive over there to bring flowers and stand still by the efforts made by this man for our freedom.”
Because Jim has only seen his brother’s grave once, in 1964, knowing it now has a caretaker is all the more special.
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