Kateri Banghart didn’t know she was going to the Netherlands until moments before the deadline for the study abroad program offered through her university, Grand Valley State in Michigan. Even after arriving, she couldn’t have guessed she would soon be visiting nine graves of Native American veterans who died while fighting in World War II.
Kateri left Michigan for the Netherlands seeking a challenge. She took English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, Critical Issues in Children’s Literature, and interned as a teacher in schools there. Before this, she never ventured far past Indiana or Michigan.
Kateri learned of the World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial and decided to visit one weekend. She asked if there were any Native American veterans buried here, and was surprised to learn of nine soldiers lying there. She called her grandpa Art Morsaw to ask how to honor these men and returned Memorial Day weekend to lay tobacco and red roses.
“This shows me that no matter where I go, I’m going to have that connection back home to my native culture,” Kateri said.
This cemetery and memorial home 8,300 American veterans who fought with Canada to liberate the Dutch from Germany. The Netherlands were so grateful to the United States that they created this 65 acre space to honor the American soldiers. The people have not forgotten these men, still. Each soldier has an assigned family that lays flowers every Liberation Day (May 5), flowers that Kateri saw on her visit.
Names of the Native American soldiers buried there: PFC John Buck, PFC Ignacio Trujillo, SGT. Cortland G. Campbell, PVT. Charles J. LaFrance, PFC Clarence S. Beeson, SSGT Walter J. Anderson, PVT Jacob T. Herman Jr., PFC Zack T. Morris and TEC Vincent Moore