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Honoring heroes, near and far

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Honoring heroes, near and far

With the sun high in the sky, local residents gathered with Polk County veterans on the northwest corner of Bolivar’s square at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to mark Veteran’s Day. 

It’s an annual tradition designed to show appreciation to those who’ve served in the nation’s armed forces. 

And while area residents take time every year to honor local veterans, another group on the other side of the world is also looking to honor heroes from Polk County who gave everything they had to the fight for freedom in World War II.  

In the Netherlands American Cemetery, resting on over 65 acres of land overlooking the town of Margraten, Netherlands, 8,301 white crosses and Stars of David, etched with names, mark the final resting places of U.S. soldiers who died overseas. 

On its Walls of the Missing, the cemetery honors another 1,722 soldiers considered missing in action.   

Some of those names, forever inscribed in white marble, belong to Polk County soldiers.

Through the Faces of Margraten project, Dutch residents are working “to pay special tribute to the service members by decorating thousands of graves and names on the Walls of the Missing with personal photos of these men and women,” according to a news release from the cemetery.    

The American Battle Monuments website, found at abmc.gov, states through the project, the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves has collected over 5,000 photos since 2014 to display during the Dutch Memorial Day weekend in early May.  

“During the Faces of Margraten, the photos will be placed directly next to the headstone or wall,” the website states. “Visitors will be able to walk through the cemetery and see the faces of the men and women that gave their lives in the fight to liberate the Netherlands.” 

In the release, Keith Stadler with the Netherlands American Cemetery said the response to the project has been remarkable. 

“People feel such a profound connection when they are able to see the faces of these young men and women that it leaves them with an impression that will last a very long time indeed,” Stadler said. 

Even though World War II ended over seven decades ago, the Dutch people “have not forgotten these men and women and the sacrifices they made for our freedom,” Sebastiaan Vonk, a member of the Faces of Margarten project, said in the release.     

“We hope that, in the end, we can put a face to the name of each and every one of our liberators,” Vonk said.  

Recently, in the hopes of doing just that, an American representative with the Faces of Margraten and Netherlands American Cemetery reached out to the Polk County Historical Society saying four soldiers there have Polk County roots.

Jean Pufahl Vincent with the historical society said the representative, Teresa Hirsch of Indianapolis, Indiana, was able to find photographs of three of the soldiers — Private First Class Deryll Anderson, Private First Class Albert L. Bornemann Jr. and Private James J. Cansler.      

However, Hirsch needs help locating a photograph for one other — Private First Class Earl J. Doke, Vincent said. 

Vincent said the group is still searching for a photograph of Doke.  

Through its research, the Polk County Historical Society discovered that Doke was an only child, the son of Earl and Ophia Tuckness Doke. 

“His mother had apparently died, since at one point he had a stepmother,” Vincent said.

She said while researchers believe Doke finished three years of secondary education, he is not listed in the rosters of any local high schools. 

“After his death, his parents moved to the Bois d'Arc area, where his father, a carpenter, fell off a barn roof and died,” she said.   

Anyone with information on Doke should contact the Polk County Historical Society at polk.co.mo.history@gmail.com or Hirsch at teresahirsch@yahoo.com.   

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