Military News

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Children remembered during Kindergraves ceremony

by Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/20/2015 - KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- U.S. service members gathered alongside  German community members to honor 451 children who passed away during the years 1952 to 1971  ,as part of the Kindergraves memorial service May 16, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

The memorial service is held annually the week following Mother's Day to honor the memories of the deceased children who weren't able to be buried in America, as well as pay respect to their parents.

"This ceremony allows people from both the U.S. and German community to come together and celebrate the lives of these children," said Senior Master Sgt. Wayne Donnelly, Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation event coordinator. "This also lets the parents know that even though time has passed, there are people here who care."

Children buried here were no more than 12 months old and most died of various childhood diseases or birth complications.

The children's memories are kept alive through the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation by preserving a respectful and eternal resting place for the children.

"It is a very humbling experience to be a part of [the foundation]," Donnelly said. "It will be something I will cherish for the rest of my life."

Representatives from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and the host nation serve as co-chairs for the foundation by maintaining open communication with families, preserving historical archives, conducting ceremonies, and providing oversight to site maintenance.

"I believe honoring these children will continue, especially for those who know what it feels like to leave someone behind," said Capt. Cyriacus Onyejegbu, 86th Airlift Wing chaplain. "There is an appreciation for the sacrifices their parents had to make by leaving their deceased loved ones here."

Each spring floral wreaths are placed at the front monument along with a candle lighting ceremony in memory of the children, as well as American flags placed at each grave marker. Though the children lived short lives, their memories continue to live on in the men and women in the military community.

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