Part 5: Ron Klunder (57) from Maarssen

Photo and text by Jeroen Hendriks

The retired career soldier has adopted two graves.

“I had registered for an adoptive grave at the American military cemetery in Margraten. But I was told that I would have to wait three years at a minimum. That is when I began looking around for adoptive graves in my own region and ended up on the site of the Soviet Military Cemetery in Leusden.

I began to study these Soviet warriors and bought Remco’s book (Kind van het Ereveld). The story really appealed to me and I thought why not adopt the grave of a Soviet soldier? Eventually I adopted the graves of Alexei Shipilin and Alexei Kotenok. As an adopter I am very proud of that.”

As a former professional soldier with the Koninklijke Marechaussee (Gendarmerie) Ron felt a kind of bond with the Soviet soldiers.

“I have been deployed twice, to Lebanon and the Sinai. From that experience I learned what it’s like to protect the liberty of fellow human beings as a soldier. Both times there was little regard for what we had gone through on our return.

I believe that veterans are quickly forgotten in The Netherlands. In other countries they are held in higher esteem. Partly because of this I have adopted the graves. I think that those who fought for our freedom or that of others should never be forgotten. When I visit the Military Cemetery as a former soldier I feel some kind of connection with these boys.

I visit the cemetery at least once a month and lay a flower on their grave. I even went there with my granddaughter (see photo). Fortunately she does not yet understand what it’s all about, but when I see her laying a flower on the graves of my boys it gives me goose bumps.

I hope that later in life I can tell her what these boys went through, so that she takes over from me and these Soviet soldiers will never be forgotten.”