Oosterbeek, The Netherlands – There was a great atmosphere last Saturday during the 75th Airborne March at Oosterbeek.
The weather was fantastic, sometimes maybe a little too warm, there was cheerfulness everywhere, the marching bands played their rhythm, the walkers walked and the Second Worldwar veterans present were busy shaking hands, taking pictures and receiving many, many thanks.
⇑ Photos —— Video ⇓
Still fairly quiet
Around noon it is fairly quiet on the Utrechtseweg in Oosterbeek. Many people are still walking towards Arnhem, they have just started, but that’s the nice thing about the Airborne March, you can start whenever you want. You only have to finish before or at 17:00. The 40km hikers do start very early, that is about 8-9 hours of walking and they are not there yet.
But there are already runners coming back, towards the Airborne arc and the finish. It is also still quiet in front of the Townhall, where the playground for the kids is that day. The children don’t mind, they have plenty of time to play now. Around the corner is a group of cheerful policemen (photo 8). They’re looking forward to today. The cheerfulness of the people is contagious and this is a nice day to be working. On such a day their job consists of controlling traffic, hopefully not too much assistance with ambulance deployment and at most someone who has become too drunk later in the evening. But the police are not only at work, others are also joining the walking march.
Atmosphere along the road
People are sitting in the grass along the side, on chairs, benches and street furniture. Just to watch and/or to wait for the acquaintances who joined the march. Flowers in hand. The sunflower predominates.
As the day progresses, it gets busier at the Airborne museum. Most people have sturdy walking shoes, but suddenly a family on wooden shoes is heading for the finish. Even the little girl completed the journey in her clogs (19/20). The lady and gentlemen of the Market Garden Challenge also made it to the finish with some company (29).
Speaker Roger Beets takes the microphone and the veterans are back from their round in the golf carts. They had a good time as the carts made their way carefully through the walkers. The golf carts are parked in the shade directly along the road. They can sit comfortably while the hikers walk by, stop and have a chat or want to have their picture taken. Without exception, they are thanked by everyone.
Children look at them with awe. Some from behind the legs of their parent and dare not go any further. Others have more guts, head straight for them and look expectantly at their parents for the photo.
The veterans enjoy the attention. The men, well into their 90s, listen to all the thanks. Take flowers and sometimes a drawing. They chat with children, acquaintances, hikers, soldiers and seem tireless. Sometimes all that gratitude just gets too much. “You people are so nice to us. You are wonderful people!”
At the Airborne Arch
That this march is much more than just a walk is shown by the young man who walks past the veterans with his scarf that reads: ‘Lest we Forget’ high in the air. Everything he is wearing is breathing Airborne and he steps briskly towards the arch, his gaze and scarf to the left, towards the veterans (42/43).
Gerrit and his colleagues are sitting in the shade under a large tree on the Airborne site, watching the walkers enter (47). And getting some rest because they will be allowed again soon. The men’s team is partly responsible for the construction and they have already completed many hours of work. Now they enjoy the day. Because what a beautiful day it is! Soon, when the last hikers have passed underneath the arch and most visitors have disappeared, they can get back to work. Clean everything up and store it well for next year of course!
The college of Renkum also participated. The morning was full of ‘obligations’ but after that they joined the other hikers, what a great atmosphere! (50/51)
Among the hikers there seem to be even more people who have walked on their wooden shoes. This group from Nijkerk/Putten is clearly audible after they have collected the medal. One of them has participated for the 40th time. On the wooden shoes that is, and he is justifiably proud of that. (67-69)
Just as anyone can be of this day. From the organising, making the atmosphere, making music to the walking.