MASSENA — A Massena man who died in World War II is among those memorialized by a group of volunteers in the Netherlands who have compiled a book that has now been translated to English.
Army PFC Raymond J. Belanger was 19 years old when he was killed during the war. He is among those buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in the small Dutch town of Margraten, near Maastrict.
He’s part of the Faces of Margraten project, which was initiated by volunteers from the Fields of honor Foundation in 2014. During the biennial tribute, the graves and Walls of the Missing are decorated with the soldiers’ personal photos. Volunteers in both Europe and the U.S. have collected more than 8,500 faces so far.
On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in 2020, the volunteers put together a book titled “The Faces of Margraten: They Will Remain Forever Young.” Mr. Belanger is among the 250 individuals who have been included in the book.
“The photos are only on display at the cemetery for a short period of time. So, we wanted to create a lasting monument in print to these men and women,” the authors of the book, Jori Videc, Sebastiaan Vonk and Arie-Jan van Hees, said in a news release. “This commemorative book stands as a testament to their service and sacrifice and is not meant to be tucked away on a shelf. Rather, we believe, it is deserving of a prominent place on anyone’s coffee table, in a classroom, in the library, or in a veterans’ post as a daily reminder of those to whom we owe so much.”
The Dutch edition of the book quickly sold out twice. Now, there’s an American edition that the authors officially presented to the Deputy Chief of Mission Aleisha Woodward of the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands on March 3.
“We wanted to bring the stories of service, sacrifice, and remembrance home,” the authors said.
The book is available through the publisher, Amsterdam University Press, or every other regular book outlet in the U.S., including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Mr. Belanger was born on April 2, 1925 in Valleyfield, Quebec and moved to Massena when he was 2 years old. He grew up at 104 East Orvis St., which was demolished after it was gutted in a November 2016 fire. He attended local schools and worked at the plant before joining the U.S. Army.
Mr. Belanger, who held the rank of private first class, was a medic with the 102nd Infantry Division, 405th Infantry Regiment. He had been fatally wounded by machine gun fire on Nov. 23, 1944, Thanksgiving Day, while performing his duties as a combat medic.
His commendations included the Silver Star, World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart, Marksmanship Badge, Combat Medical Badge, American Campaign Medal, Army Presidential Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal and European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign.
The Silver Star Medal is the United States Armed Forces’ third-highest military decoration for valor in combat.
The Silver Star Medal is awarded primarily to members of the United States Armed Forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.
Now, Mr. Belanger rests at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, which also serves at the final resting place of more than 8,000 American World War II casualties. The names of another 1,722 soldiers are recorded on the Walls of the Missing. The cemetery is one of the 26 overseas American cemeteries that are administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
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