The annual commemoration ceremonies ‘herdenkingsceremonie,’ was held on Saturday, August 12th at the National Cemetery of Los Angeles. Around 50 people came together out of respect for the fallen forces and civilians, who lost their life in the former Dutch East Indies during the Japanese occupation and the bersiap period. Unfortunately, the number of attendees are dwindling, as the 1st generation is getting too old to attend or have passed away.
As in previous years, wreaths were layed and a a floral tribute was given at the only Dutch Indies monument in the United States.
Speeches were given by Auke Mensink, who did an amazing job the last 10 years in his role as president of the committee of the Netherlands Veterans Organization. He thanked the audience for participating in remembrance of our fallen heroes, military and civilians. This was the last year for Mr. Mensink as president. He will continue to be part of the organization and choir.
His successor Kenneth van der Horst (son of choir member Fredje van der Horst) was introduced and gave an inspiring speech about why he took on the role as president and why people should join this commemoration: “We are here to honor, to remember, but also to teach, about what we should pass on to our children. To teach about our heritage and to know more about our ancestors’ life and explain why we are here, to show the importance of remembering.” Van der Horst, a retired fighter pilot in the US Navy, was sharing some of his personal stories. He admitted that he was trying to come to terms with all that which is part of his heritage and what he has inherited from Indonesia, Holland, America. He emphasized the importance of telling the story and how all these things come together. A little disappointing ‘faux pas’ in his speech was that he kept referring to Indo-Europeans as Indonesians, like in a remark he made about that ‘American Swing Music was introduced by Indonesians.’ One can say that’s an easy made mistake because in the English language the hybrid community of Indo-Europeans are mostly referred to as ‘Dutch-Indonesians.’ Without denouncing the Indonesian part of our heritage, our people were never Indonesians. Most people of mixed heritage had the Dutch nationality and had to leave their country of birth. In the case of the van der Horst family they left after six generations in the Dutch East Indies.
Johannes van Tilburg, the Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands gave the following speech:
“A Nation of Neighbors,
“Once again, we have come together – in the Los Angeles National Cemetery – in support of the Wapenbroeders and their venerable tradition of remembering – and honoring – the brave Dutch Indonesians who died during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Indonesia. We celebrate – and commemorate – the triumph over tyranny that was accomplished by the Allied victory in 1945.
As Honorary Counsel in Los Angeles, and on behalf of the Dutch Government, I am proud to be a part of this tradition. I have shared this day with you for six or more years, and I am honored to participate again today.
This historic day is also important because it allows us to meet as immigrants – but also as citizens of the United States of America. It recognized that we are together here as part of a very unique and special Nation of Neighbors. We do not forget the past, but as neighbors we also strive to build bridges to the future, and to find common ground with our fellow citizens in the spirit of good neighbors.
The Wapenbroeders and their families and friends who are gathered here today – remember yesterday but look forward to tomorrow. I join them, as I know you do, in respect and appreciation for the part they have all played in our shared and honored history.
Auke Mensink, for 10 years President of the committee 15 Augustus (Netherlands Veterans Organization), passing on the baton to his successor Kenneth van der Horst.
Floral tribute on the only Dutch East Indies monument in the United States of America.
MC Ms. Sandra Ly and Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Johannes van Tilburg.
The Creutzburgs of De Indo magazine.
Unlike what we see in the Netherlands, not many 2nd and 3rd generation Indo-Americans were present. We hope that next year more will show interest in their heritage and honor their ancestors by participating.
By Jeff Keasberry.
Thanks to Linda van Lommel Keeney for the pictures.