Foreign Service Construction Engineer – Netherlands Trip to Randstad Belt
We can use Google to learn anything we want about world history and our country’s history, but our own personal history—which we really should know quite well—is often lost if we don’t make the effort.
I never knew my grandfather. However, a few months before joining the Foreign Service, my aunt gave me a picture of him in uniform and his separation qualification record from World War II. There is no doubt, my grandfather grew up in a world quite different from the one in which I now live, but it’s interesting that I now share such a close correlation. As it turned out, during the war, he was in charge of planning and implementing command posts across Central Europe.
At the end of last month, our paths aligned once more with a Netherlands Trip to the Randstad Belt for a New Embassy Campus project. With over 110 monuments and museums in the Netherlands, that commemorate America’s role in its liberation, I couldn’t help but imagine the possibility I could be retracing my grandfather’s steps.
Once again, I convinced Jennilou and Esmei to tag along to keep me company. While the majority of my time was spent working on the Embassy being constructed in The Hague, we enjoyed exploring the city and surrounding areas in the evenings. Commuting to work by bicycle also allowed me to change up my route daily and witness WWII relics such as the bunkers lining the beaches, canals dug as tank busters, and the Clingendael estate confiscated by the Nazis.
During WWII, German troops bombed Rotterdam in what is now referred to as The Rotterdam Blitz. The city crumbled to the ground, killing nearly 900 Dutch citizens and leaving another 80,000 homeless. Holland surrendered after the bombing upon threats of an additional bombing of Utrecht. The neighboring city of Delft was one of our evening excursion highlights, as the city was essentially averted from destruction and able to keep its quintessential old European charm.
Post-war mentality in the Netherlands is best described as a postmodern progressive mentality, and these sentiments are reflected in movements for assisted suicide, tolerance of cannabis, and LGBT rights. This effort was on full display in Amsterdam the afternoon of our departure, as it coincided with the Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade and its 500,000 spectators.
The event certainly reinforced that my grandfather grew up in quite a different world, but I am proud to have walked in his footsteps knowing he had a part in protecting and upholding the equality movement on display that day.