Story by C/MSG Kayla Pham, and C/MAJ Keyrstyn Drake
Photos by LTC(R) Jon Ring and C/MSC Kayla Pham
Six Warrior Battalion cadets were honored to attend a trip to Arnhem, Netherlands. They spent all weekend there, traveling on the 15th of September and returning on the evening of the 18th. The purpose of the trip was to learn about Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem.
In September of 1944, the Allies needed an advancement into Germany. The plan was to ensure a route from Belgium to the Netherlands, then turn into Germany while reinforcements advanced. The three main bridges in Northwest Germany were determined to be the main points of attack: the Maas bridge, the Waal bridge, and the Rhine bridge. President Eisenhower ratified the plan and it went into effect under the code name ‘Operation Market Garden’. It was the largest Airborne operation but, unfortunately, the German forces that were fortifying the bridges were too strong and the operation eventually failed. Arnhem was left in the hands of the German forces. This would be further known as the “Battle of Arnhem”.
On the 15th the cadets traveled to Arnhem, going shopping and getting settled in. They stayed in trailers at a camping ground, close to the main event locations. The 16th was dedicated to visiting and seeing the Waal and Rhine bridges, the Eindhoven 101st Airborne Division memorial, and the Hartenstein Museum. The Waal crossing was commanded by General James Gavin, who led the U.S. 82nd Airborne division to Groesbeek in the Netherlands, with the mission of capturing and crossing the Waal bridge. The paratroopers entered the Waal waters in twenty-six small boats, taking on attacks from all angles. Many of them used the end of their guns to paddle. They came from the North and south, meeting in the middle at the Waal bridge. The paratroopers successfully captured the bridges with the help of the 30th Corps. There were heavy losses and more than half of the 260 soldiers in battle were killed or wounded. The Hartenstein Museum explained the Battle of Arnhem as well as Operation Market Garden, and the contributions made by both the soldiers on land and the paratroopers. The cadets had the opportunity to hear different stories and perspectives from the citizens and soldiers in the battle. Cadet 1LT David Matz stated, “The airborne experience at the museum was the best part, it showed a glimpse into what the paratroopers in 1944 experienced, featuring a flight simulation, and allowing you to walk around to view the exhibit of Arnhem during battle.”
The evenings were spent making dinner, eating, and playing games together in the cabins. This time was also spent discussing the history of Arnhem. Cadet CPL Isabella Garret stated “Enjoying quality time with my peers, and my superiors was a change for me. I have never been on a trip like this, but cooking and enjoying a meal with each other was the perfect start and end to every day, even though one of my friends kept swiping toast before breakfast. Playing tag and card games in the evenings, and stopping at playgrounds was the best way to spend our downtime. I got to meet my peers on a personal level and I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I spent with them”.
The 17th held one of the bigger events of the weekend. The Market Garden commemoration jumps started with many aircraft flying over the drop zone and numerous paratroopers from different countries jumping. Cadet MAJ Keyrstyn Drake commented, “It was really cool to see different countries’ paratroopers jump together. You could tell who was from where by the different parachutes. We got to see so many different militaries, including the US, Hungary, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Japan, France, Germany, and Poland.” There was the wreath-laying ceremony by the drop zone, where leaders laid wreaths with their Countries’ flags, honoring those who fought and lost their lives during the Battle of Arnhem.
A memorial service was held the last morning of the trip at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Cadet CSM John Dacus commented, “ I was very honored to participate in the ceremony. The ceremony was very moving. I also enjoyed seeing that the local people still celebrate those who fought and died for their liberation. It was good to see that they are not only remembered by their own people, but by all of those around the world.” Many military soldiers and veterans attended, and the cadets even got to meet LTC Ring’s past Colour Sergeant in 2d Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, British Army. Cadet CPT Benjamin Garcia added that he, “Appreciated seeing the reality of how young many of the fallen soldiers were. Some of the bodies were unidentifiable, so their headstones said ‘Known only to God.’ It was also nice to see the current soldiers honoring those who passed many years ago.”
The cadets traveled back home after the memorial service, concluding a great adventure for them all. C/MSG Kayla Pham stated “This trip overall was an amazing experience. I am so thankful that I was chosen for an opportunity like this. I not only found a new appreciation for life itself and the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in pursuit of a better future, but I gained new bonds and memories with people who I will cherish forever because of this experience”. The cadets give thanks and gratitude to LTC Jon Ring and his wife Mrs. Mary Ring for providing them with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and for continuing these moments for years to come.