The Mission Belle - Following the Flight Path

genealogy netherlands travel wwii Oct 02, 2018

Saturday, 29 September 2018, I attended the unveiling of a new monument in the Netherlands honoring the crew of the Mission Belle B-17 bomber. I wrote two articles about the day's events, which you can read.

The Mission Belle - Freedom Demands Responsibility

The Mission Belle - Unveiling the Monument

In this article I would like to share more of the healing and closure side of the day's events.

We often hear of people walking in their soldier's footsteps. That is a phrase I have used a lot since I walked in my cousin James Privoznik's footsteps in 2015. Colonel Fischer of the U.S. Air Force, who spoke at the commemoration of the Mission Belle, thanked the families for following the flight path of their family member. I love that phrase.

I attended the unveiling of the Mission Belle monument for several reasons.

  • I like to attend commemorations in Europe when possible to be a part of the remembrance and also share this with others.
  • My husband was going to translate the Dutch speeches for the American families.
  • Our re-enactor friends were part of the group hosting the families, preparing for the unveiling, and responsible for the creation of many components of the weekend's events. Supporting them is important.
  • I was aware that BEING who I BE, I would provide a healing space for the living and the dead to process the events of 1 December 1943, what followed, and the weekend's events. My presence, especially for a few people I was drawn to, was required.

It can sometimes be difficult to explain to people who do not have the capacities I do, what I experienced, felt, or saw. I will however, do my best.

When the families began arriving and walking up the stairs to the meeting area, the entire bomber crew (all deceased) showed up with them, along with many others long gone from this reality. The energy was not that of sadness or darkness but of light and joy! It was felt not only by me but several re-enactor friends with healing capacities. Many of us were providing a healing space.

How was healing provided? Sometimes a smile, a 'good morning' or a handshake. A touch on the shoulder for those who looked as if they would cry at any moment. Expanding out of our souls to provide the space people required. A hug. Holding someone's hand as they tried to put into words what they were feeling.

The healing was not just one way - me providing space. Several people I spoke to about the education I do on my website were appreciative of my work. One gentleman even came to find me for the specific purpose of telling me thank you for the work I've done all these years, the education and resources I provide on my website and through my books, that allowed his sister to find information on her adopted soldier and find family members. To hear that the work I do is not in vain and helps people, heals parts of my soul as well. I am so grateful for this man and his words to me.

The speeches were all given with composure and emotion with tears at certain moments. We heard from city officials, a representative from the U.S. Air Force, eye witnesses from the day of the crash, and family members.  As each spoke, the airmen gathered behind them providing support, it seems even more so for a man named Paul who told a story and read a beautiful poem. I could see the crew in a semi-circle behind him sending him love.

After the speeches were done, tables were set for lunch and people sat to talk and eat. I could see the airmen behind the bar having drinks and talking and laughing. It was clear they were receiving healing and many of them, after this weekend, would be ready to go into the light. I am able to help people into the light, but was aware this day was not the moment to do this.

When it was time for the mission briefing, done by re-enactors, primarily a man named Joe. I could feel the joy and relief of the crewmen as Joe gave the orders. There was an energy from the crew that finally their families knew something of what it was like to be in a bomb crew during WWII. Their families finally knew something of what it was to get orders, to know where the flak would hit, where the most dangerous moments of the mission would be, and to wonder if they would make it home.

As the briefing continued, it was clear to me that whether family members knew it or not, things were being healed, closure was discovered on some issues, and knowledge was gained.

I spoke to a couple of sons of the crew before we went to the monument site. In both cases, we spent some time talking about how the Dutch commemorate, how I educate, and some misconceptions in America about military research or how things were done during and after the war. Both men were surprised at much of it and I hope they will share the information with others back home in America. Sometimes Finding the Answers you seek, comes in a land far away.

The speeches given at the unveiling of the monument were beautiful. I always appreciate it when children participate. Two young boys built an airplane out of wood and laid it at the foot of the monument at the beginning of the ceremony. Other children participated by reading poems. The Dutch choose to ensure the past is not forgotten. They follow the flight paths or walk in the soldier's footsteps of those who helped liberate their country, many of whom died.

After the speeches, Taps was played which always moves me. The American National Anthem was played as our flag was raised from half-staff. Then the Dutch National Anthem was played as their flag was raised and voices rose in song and beauty washed over all in attendance.

Wreaths were laid and two airplanes did a fly over together, turned around, and then flew the missing man formation as they headed back to base. I always love it when I attend a ceremony with a fly over. The crowd is always moved.

When the ceremony ended, I spoke to a couple Americans before I departed. Made one final push of energy out to the families and then headed for home with my Dutch husband. Grateful for the beautiful fall weather, the families who attended - both Dutch and American - and the memory that lives on, I wonder, what else is possible now?

To learn more about the Mission Belle, you can check out a second website they have. If you would like to learn how I can help you discover the answers you seek to your service member's past for WWI, WWII, Korea, or Vietnam, please check out our services and contact us to learn more.

© 2018 Jennifer Holik

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