The Netherlanders Love for the American Servicemen and women

Posted on June 1, 2022


Hello everyone,

Please allow me to introduce myself to you.

My name is Ilse Sproncken, I’m 9 years old and I live in Hulsberg, The Netherlands. I’m in 3rd grade of elementary school.

I’m the adopter of two graves at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten.

The first grave that I adopted is that of an Unknown Soldier. His gravemarker reads “Here rests In Honored Glory A Comrade in Arms Known but to God”. Although I don’t know who he is and I can’t put a face to his name there are things that I can do. I can remember and honor him and keep his memory alive by keep telling people about him.

I’m also the adopter of the grave of PVT Gilbert M. Bush. Gilbert was born January 15, 1916 in Princeton, New Jersey to Gilbert Bush and Anna Bush. Gilbert has three older siblings, brother Raymond and sisters Viola and Helen and also a younger sibling, brother Arthur Bush.

In 1936 Gilbert married Mary M. Dunk. They have five children, son Gilbert Bush Jr and daughters Peggy Ann, Mary, Audrey and Irene Bush.

Gilbert was inducted into the Army on May 18th, 1942 and assigned to the 29th Infantry Division. I would like to share the words of Gilbert’s youngest daughter Angela Bridget Christian about her father…

My Dad, Pvt. Gilbert Manny Bush was born in Princeton, New Jersey on 15th January, 1916. His father died in 1930 when he was 14 years of age and it was left to him to try and help his mother through the bad times of the depression.

He was inducted into the army at Fort Dix on 18th May, 1942 and assigned to the 29th Infantry Division. Usually the most athletic soldiers ended up in this outfit, so Dad must have been pretty sporty. I have learned that he did some boxing while he served with 175 Th; maybe this is where I inherited my athleticism.

He spent almost eighteen months taking part in vigorous training in England and at sometime met my Mother in the London area. Sadly Mum didn’t tell me much about him other than his love of music, dancing, gambling, being incredibly romantic and having an eye for the ladies. He was just your typical G.I. Joe full of charm and brimming with confidence.

There are still many gaps to fill in concerning the short life of my father, but, I know that he lived life to the full and literally swept my Mum off her feet with his boyish good looks and charm.

He was awarded his Combat Infantryman’s Badge on 9th December, 1944 while assigned to 313th Infantry. At this time he was fighting in France and sustained injuries which warranted being shipped back to England for treatment. He was eventually sent back as a replacement and joined the Anti Tank section.

On the 8th May, 1945 (V.E. Day) while on security duty in the Dortmund area of Germany he was invited to join the Russian soldiers for a celebratory drink to toast the end of hostilities, this toast to victory and freedom tragically ended the life of my father, some of his buddies and a number of the Russians.

How would my life have differed had this tragedy not occurred?

Thinking back to my childhood in bombed out London, being shunted from one homeless centre to another.

Mum not knowing where the next meal was coming from, no family to turn to for help and eventually marrying someone who was not a bad man, but, was unable to show me any sort of affection whatsoever. We were eventually given a council flat in South London.

I remember sharing a bedroom with my half brother and my step-father would creep in after finishing work and take my brother out of the bedroom to play with whatever new toy he had bought for him. I would just lay there thinking “why does he never buy anything for me? Not knowing then that he wasn’t my dad. Then one particular night he said “Angela are you awake, I’ve got something for you”. I was just so excited when he handed me a little man made of beads with bendy arms and legs. The excitement was so much that as I was bending the arms and legs in all directions, the whole thing just fell to bits. I was devastated and I heard him saying to Mum, “See that’s why I never give her anything”.

I eventually started to think that maybe I was bad and undeserving and then as I got a bit older this changed to a complete dislike of my step-father, so when Mum eventually told me at the age of twelve that he wasn’t my real dad, I was overjoyed! This euphoria was short lived; I became a victim of sorrow. Why did I not have a real dad to love me, to kiss me goodnight, to give me encouragement and tell me how precious I was, how I yearned for all those things, the hurt was indescribable.

When I reached my teens all I wanted was to get away and find someone who would really love me, so at the tender age of sixteen became pregnant, quit college to get married and for me that was it. What could I have achieved if I had had my dad beside me to advise me and give me the confidence I so lacked? We will never know, but, I do know that he has helped me through the bad times and he is there watching over me and I also know that he loves me.

I wish that I could sit here now and say to dad, “hey look at me, I’m the daughter you never saw. I’m talented, successful and someone to be proud of, but, I’m not. I’m just an ordinary Mum who has brought up four children, had no career and only now at this late stage in my life, am I starting to find my feet and gain a bit of confidence.

Then on the other hand I think he is probably a little bit proud of me, after all, I, (little ole me), against all the odds, have found him and I am making sure that he will be remembered and justly honored.

This is my tribute to the father I never knew, the father I think about every day of my life and the father that makes me so proud to honor his sacrifice. Dad, I love you with all of my heart and thank you for giving me life.

Your loving daughter

— Angela Bridget Christian –

Angela has visited the grave of her father many times through the years. The first time we’ve met I was only 7 months old, many times followed…. she’s my special UK grandma.

I will continue to remember and honor both my adopted soldiers for as long as I live.

Ilse Sproncken

This is my very special adopted Grand Daughter from the Netherlands. She is special because her adopting these two graves was her choice. She will tend to them throughout the year bringing flowers and flags to show her respect. I first met Ilse, her Mom, Nicole, and her Father, Leon, at the Margraten cemetery on October 21, 2017. Ilse presented me with a leaf she had picked up. I have that leaf in a frame hanging on my wall.

This the entrance to the Margraten American Cemetery,

This is Ilse at the cemetery on Memorial Day 2022

This is Ilse taking her flowers to her soldiers.

The flags of the Netherlands and America Fly Proudly at the cemetery.