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Photo by Frank Prager
Jim Christians (left) and his wife, Mary Ann, with Jan and Annelies Hensels of the Netherlands. The Hensels are the third generation who have taken care of the Netherlands grave of Jim’s brother, Roger Christians.
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Photo by Frank Prager
Roger Christians of Dorsey was killed while fighting on the front lines in Germany in World War II. His grave is at Margraten Cemetery in the Netherlands.
DORSEY — It is difficult for most people today to grasp the extent of the peril that existed during World War II and the fact that the incalculable courage and heroism of America’s soldiers truly preserved the freedom of our current generation.
The world was in real and immediate danger of falling subject to the Axis countries’ tyranny and the sacrifices of soldiers from every part of our nation were the reason the free world exists today. No part of America was untouched by loss and heartache, even the smallest towns in our area.
On April 16, 1945, U.S. Army Pfc. Roger Christians from the local farming community of Dorsey was killed in action while fighting on the front lines in Germany. He is buried at Margraten cemetery in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. The area around Margraten, along with the entire country of the Netherlands, was liberated from the Nazis by U.S. forces in some of the fiercest fighting in the history of the world.
The ongoing commitment of the Dutch citizens of the Netherlands since that time to honor and remember those troops is reflected in their grave adoption program. More than 8,000 American graves at the Margraten cemetery have been adopted and maintained by generations of Dutch citizens since the years of the war. The families put flowers on the graves, visit them during the soldiers’ birthdays and major holidays, and ensure the graves are maintained.
Jan Hensels and his wife, Annelies, are the family that takes care of Roger Christians’ gravesite. They recently traveled from the Netherlands to visit Jim Christians and his family. Jim is Roger’s brother.
Jan speaks with conviction when he describes the heroism of Roger Christians and the other soldiers who fought in the war.
“We can never forget what they did,” he says.
“Our grandparents were the first generation to care for the graves,” Annelies says. “Our parents did it after that and now we do it. There are hundreds on waiting lists to adopt graves if they become available.”
While the Hensels and their ancestry have maintained Roger Christian’s grave since 1947, Jan and Annelies just recently located and made contact with Jim Christians.
“We were able to find him through the Internet,” Jan says.
The Hensels live in the city of Masstricht, about six miles from the cemetery.
“Our city was close to two of the largest battles of the war — the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest,” Jan says.
Those battles witnessed some of the highest numbers of casualties of the war. The Hensels say that as a result, the people in that area have an enduring appreciation for the sacrifices of American service personnel.
During a May 18 dinner at Emmaus Lutheran Church in Dorsey, the Hensels had the opportunity to meet Jim Christians’ family and friends.
Jim’s wife, Mary Ann, notes that Jim’s mother has since passed away but always hoped Roger would be remembered and that she would be reassured to hear the message the Hensels brought with them.
“Generations before us have taken care of the graves and future generations will continue after us,” Annelies says. “We want the people here to know that Roger Christians and the soldiers who saved our country will never be forgotten.”