***image1***Tony, the son of an American Soldier, serving in Europe was only 4 years old when his little sister died. His parents never talked about their loss in an effort to avoid dealing with the grief.
Lourdes was born Aug. 4, 1957, in Verdun, France, and died March 24, 1958, at the Landstuhl U.S. Army hospital. She became ill with a contagious disease and despite receiving excellent medical care, could not be saved.
In 1996, Tony read a magazine article about the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves and approached his loving parents for details about his sister. He had never been told where his sister was buried – he assumed she was somewhere in France.
For the first time, his parents unlocked their secrets and shared their story. It was a blessing that they did because within a year his father died and in 2002 his mother died.
In April 2005, Tony Ayala and his family traveled to Germany to search for the resting place of his younger sister. Tony realized his quest of finding his sister when he visited the Kindergraves and found her gravestone resting along side hundreds of other American children who died while stationed overseas.
The Kindergraves serve as a peaceful resting place for 451 infant children of American servicemembers stationed in Europe between 1952 and 1971. These children were cheated out of life by untreatable childhood diseases and misfortunes. At the time, transportation for a stateside burial was not available.
For three decades, the Kindergraves were scattered throughout different areas of the Kaiserslautern Waldfriedhof (forest cemetery). In 1986, the Ramstein Area Chiefs’ Group and the German American and International Women’s Club joined together to form the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation. The group worked with community leaders to consolidate the graves into one centralized memorial.
The purpose of the partners was to “keep the children’s memories alive” by creating an eternal resting place undisturbed over time and to preserve the archives for future generations. The chiefs’ group volunteered as the official agent in leasing the land where the “U. S. Force’s Kinder” monument now stands.
While the Kindergraves look as if they receive tender loving care from their families, most of the families returned to America many decades ago. The care and upkeep of the site is performed by American and German volunteers supporting the foundation. They meet routinely to cut the grass, rake leaves, clean grave markers and tend to the flowers. Private donations fund the maintenance activities.
Each spring on the Saturday following Mother’s Day, the clubs hold a memorial ceremony at the graves. A JROTC color guard leads the 2005 memorial ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Daenner Kaserne Chapel. Daenner Kaserne is located in East Kaiserslautern, route B-37 (Mannheimer Strasse), across the street from Kleber Kaserne. The ceremony is open to everyone. For information on the memorial or the history of the foundation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.