From left: Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis, Fire Chief Andre Bennet, Chief of Basic Police Care St. Eustatius Inspector Robelto Hodge and other officers pause just before laying the wreaths on the fallen soldiers memorial.
ST. EUSTATIUS–A sombre Memorial Day ceremony was held in St. Eustatius on Tuesday, May 4, to commemorate the Dutch victims – civilians and soldiers – who were killed or murdered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world in war situations or during peace-keeping operations since the outbreak of the Second World War.
Flags were flown at half-mast at all government offices in observance of the day. A sizeable crowd attended the ceremony held at historical Fort Oranje.
The ceremony featured speeches, music, and special remarks. Brother Ricardo Fortin delivered a sermonette about the soldiers who lost their lives during war and the families that they left behind. Reverend Vincia Celestine gave a rousing invocation. A special soulful rendition was performed by Sjahaira Fleming and Vashti Hooker.
Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis said that one of the earliest Memorial Day ceremonies in history took place in 1865, less than one month after the United States Confederacy surrendered in 1865, and was organised by freed African American slaves.
“It is said that these men and women exhumed a mass grave of more than 260 Union soldiers. And then on May 1, 1865, these same freed slaves staged a parade to honour the lives of the fallen soldiers, men who had given their lives to ensure freedom,” Francis said.
This year marked the 76th time the island has observed this day with flags flying at half-mast and a pause to pay respect, remembrance and gratitude for the great sacrifice all those years ago.
“Often, we speak of World War 2 as though it is something far away in our past. However, throughout the world there are people who are still alive whose lives were touched by this war, who were victims of the war and for whom the experience will always be vivid,” Francis said.
Statia, she added, was also impacted by World War 2.
“J.C. Van Putten, W.O. Hooker and M. Dembrooke were young Statia men who bravely heeded the call to fight in order to ensure that freedom reigned, and sadly these men lost their lives in the line of duty. This specific act of bravery propelled them to the National Heroes that we remember for their bravery, patriotism as their legacy, for standing tall in the face of adversity, as symbols of selflessness,” Francis said.
“On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us live in the legacy of these men, stand up tall against injustice, nepotism and bias.”
She encouraged everyone to stand proudly, just like the first observance of Memorial Day, for values such as honesty, integrity, and fortitude of character and to stand up for what they all know is right because it is right. “Let us stand bravely today and every day: for Statia.”
Francis laid a wreath at the monument in Fort Oranje on behalf of the Government. Gabriel Schobbe did special tap-toe performance. A two-minute silence was observed to pay tribute to fallen soldiers.
Following the ceremony, a procession moved to the burial marker at the Salem cemetery. A monument was erected at the Salem cemetery to honour the three Statian soldiers who lost their lives in the war. One was added when he died. The procession was led by the Garfield Pathfinders Club Drum Corps under the leadership of Cidro Richardson, along with the Methodist Girls Brigade and attendees.
Wreaths were also laid by Francis and members of the Emergency Response Units.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/statia-observes-memorial-day