Shutdown Reaches All the Way to … Belgium?

(Courtesy Susan Parry)
(Courtesy Susan Parry)
Posted October 3, 2013 at 1:04pm

Signs like these are all over Washington and the rest of the country these days, but what makes this one unusual is that it was taken by this scribe’s mother-in-law in Waregem, Belgium, at the Flanders Field American Cemetery.

Yes, it appears even our overseas cemeteries honoring fallen U.S. soldiers from World Wars I and II are shuttered. Indeed, the American Battle Monuments Commission, which manages 24 cemeteries and 26 memorials, monuments and markers abroad, has shut down.

“The sacrifice of more than 218,000 U.S. servicemen and women is memorialized at these locations. Nearly 125,000 American war dead are buried at ABMC cemeteries, with an additional 94,000 individuals commemorated on Tablets of the Missing,” the ABMC’s website notes.

But the site also notes something else: “Due to a lack of funding for ABMC operations (U.S. Government shutdown), ABMC cemeteries and memorials are temporarily closed. We are unable to respond to your inquiries or provide the services and products described in the ‘Services Available’ section of this Web site. We regret any inconvenience these temporary actions may cause.”

Susan Parry, a D.C. resident (and mother to this reporter’s husband), said that one Belgian worker at the Flanders cemetery told her there are usually four people who man the site. The cemetery is the final resting place for 368 soldiers, who the ABMC said “gave their lives in liberating the soil of Belgium in World War I” in September 1918.

But the ABMC also serves larger and more popular tourist sites, such as the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial that contains the graves of 9,387 soldiers, most of whom died on D-Day.