The Association Maintaining Memorial Day’s Lasting Impact Overseas

The American Overseas Memorial Day Association, created to honor American troops whose final resting place was overseas, has been active for nearly a century. One chapter is working to keep its ongoing mission alive through a new website.

Memorial Day is an American holiday to reflect on those lost in battle, but as a long-active association proves, its reach goes far beyond U.S. borders.

Since 1920, the American Overseas Memorial Day Association has strived to honor those who died in World War I and World War II and never returned home.

AOMDA works to honor the final resting places of Americans buried overseas, placing flags either at U.S. military cemeteries in Europe or in isolated graves throughout Europe and North Africa.

The group’s mission, as stated in its certificate of incorporation, reads: “To decorate on the National Memorial Day and such other public and patriotic holidays as may be appropriate, the graves, tombs, and monuments of all American Servicemen and women of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Auxiliary Services buried overseas.”

In the coming days, AOMDA and its chapters will hold a series of ceremonies, some of which will take place as far away as the Philippines, Mexico, and Panama. The Belgian chapter alone will hold 19 such ceremonies.

Remembrance, With Technology

That Belgian chapter is particularly active. In comments to Fox News in 2014, AOMDA Belgium Public Relations Representative Laura Hoffman noted that the group works “to make Memorial Day come alive 365 days a year.”

“Honoring their sacrifice is our mission, and the heartfelt sentiment that one feels in the presence of so many local residents who attend each year without fail,” Hoffman told the network.

The chapter’s website, relaunched in 2017, tells the story of sacrifices made by the more than 14,000 Americans buried in Belgium. The site focuses on teaching younger generations, along with helping older ones reflect. The chapter created a detailed database that works as a virtual grave site, allowing loved ones to share their remembrances.

“This digital database, dedicated to telling and preserving the stories of these fallen American servicemen, is by far the most wide-reaching move we have initiated yet,” AOMDA Belgium President Jerome Sheridan said in a news release.

The association may have a strong focus on the past, but the Belgian chapter’s moves highlight its desire to make room for the modern day.

“With every passing year, the number of veterans who attend our ceremonies is declining and those with a direct memory of the wars and the lives of these soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen continues to fade,” Sheridan added. “We have an obligation to do what we can to keep the memory of these servicemen alive and to let their stories speak for the true price and value of freedom. Thanks to new technology, this effort is now a global transatlantic effort.”

The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium. (Julien Thys/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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