Speech minister van Defensie Ank Bijleveld-Schouten bij de herdenking van D-Day met Prinses Irene Brigade, 6 juni 2019 te Arromanches, Normandië

Bonjour Madame la Secrétaire d’Etat,  Monsieur le Maire, Mesdames et messieurs à vos titres personnelles,

J’ai l’honneur d'être ici aujourd'hui, avec vous, en ce jour historique. Pour contempler ensemble l’histoire de cette plage et l’importance qu’elle revêt à présent pour notre liberté. Permettez-moi de continuer en hollandais pour m’adresser à mes compatriotes.

We staan hier vandaag op een historische plek.

Met drie mannen die hier zijn geweest, op dat beslissende moment, 75 jaar geleden.

Rudi Hemmes, Max Wolff en Karel Zwart: veteranen van de Prinses Irene Brigade.

Zij schreven in augustus 1944 mee aan de geschiedenis. Als jonge, moedige knapen. Nu zijn het wijze heren.

En toch…als ik naar ze kijk, dan zie ik die jongemannen staan die zij toen waren. Het doet me denken aan de beroemde woorden van de schrijver Nescio:

“Jongens waren we. Maar aardige jongens.  Al zeg ik ’t zelf. We zijn nu veel wijzer (…).”

Jongelingen dus, in augustus 1944 ongeveer zou oud als de jongelingen die u naast hen ziet staan.

Staat u mij toe dat ik verder ga in het Engels, voor ons internationale gezelschap.

As you’ve heard, I addressed the three D-Day Brigade veterans present here today.

Through their eyes, we can look at this historic moment in time.

They add colour to the black and white images we have of that moment.

Today, we look at D-Day as the beginning of our liberation. We see it as the day that hope came back to our continent.

But then, in 1944, nobody was sure whether the allied forces would succeed. They did not know that on their return to the Netherlands, they would be hailed as heroes.  

So it took a lot of guts…a lot of courage…and a lot of heart, to land at Normandy, and fight for your life, and the lives of many others.

We owe everything to those who were willing, or were asked, to serve in the Second World War. Many generations since then have grown up in a free country, full of hope and opportunities.

I’m thankful that today, there are still young men and women who decide to join the military. To serve a higher purpose in life: the freedom and safety of others. It’s a choice they are able to make because people like you chose to fight for their freedom.

Looking at these young men and women, I want to thank you for making that choice. I am grateful for your decision to give back; to do your part in the name of peace.

And looking at our veterans, I want to say thank you for making that choice, many years ago. We’re looking at wise men now…but you are still our boys.

Our boys, and not really that different from the young people standing at their side.
They too made the choice at a young age to serve a higher goal.

Some of them will soon follow in your footsteps. In a few weeks, they will travel in the Alpha team to Lithuania. They will do their part in NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence.
Let’s wish them good luck, and applaud our veterans and the women and men who are serving today.