One upon a time, when many veterans visited the commemorations around Market Garden in The Netherlands it was a tradition they would take pins for the children to give.
Especially the flowerchildren who would be at the cemetery on Sundays. They would get all kinds of pins from the regiments and they became collectables. But somewhere between the years as veterans came less, the tradition faded. But now restored, thanks to the efforts of Charlie McColgan, his mates from The Airborne Forces Riders, Frans Ammerlaan and Hans Kelderman from the The Market Garden Foundation.
The Airborne Forces Riders are a motorcyclists group that are all ex military and attend remembrance services in the UK and other countries. Since a few years they take part in a commemoration ride to Oosterbeek and his surroundings, and they were present at the Airborne cemetery in Oosterbeek for the 75th commemorations.
During that service at the cemetery one of them, former Para Engineer Charlie McColgan and Vice President of The Riders, met one of the flower children, named Kiki. At the end of the ceremony he put his beret on the girls head. “She seemed to be very happy with that. ” Charlie said.
Shortly after this, he got the idea to thank all of the flower children in a special way. He collected many hundreds of maroon berets and hoped to give every child one the next year. This was discussed with the Market Garden Foundation who asked around in the area and committees. The idea was cancelled for various reasons so over 500 maroon berets are now waiting to go another good plan in the near future.
As one way closes…
Charlie was disappointed, but soon a new idea started and by combining forces with Frans, they came up with the idea to hand out a pin to the flower children as in the old tradition that was done by the Arnhem veterans for many years after the service.
Charlie made the design himself, using the image of the soldier and the flower girl statue you can find opposite the Airborne museum at Oosterbeek. Even more special it became when the Airborne riders collected so much money that they could give the flower children a pin for the next few years. They came up with all kinds of ways to collect money, suitable for these crazy-corona-times like sponsored grown beards and moustaches.
The icing on the cake was to add a year mark on the pin so they will become very collectable. Every year no more than 2.000 will be produced.
So they meet again
After the commemoration at the cemetery last Sunday, were due to the corona measurements the ceremony was held without public and flowerchildren, Charlie met up with Kiki again, this time at the statue of the soldier and the flowergirl in front of the Airborne Museum.
Knowing they have to go in a 2-weeks quarantine when they get back to the U.K.Charlie and Paul More, President of the Airborne Forces Riders came to The Netherlands to hand over the pin he designed to Kiki. That’s how important this project is for Chalie, Paul totally understanding this, came along.