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American children remembered in annual memorial service

Floral wreaths sit in front of a grave site.

Floral wreaths sit at the front monument of the American Kindergraves memorial site in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery, Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 16, 2020. Leaders from the Kaiserslautern Military Community and city of Kaiserslautern gathered for the annual Kindergraves memorial service, held every Spring following Mother’s Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

A floral wreath sits in front of a grave site.

A floral wreath presented by the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group lays in front of the American Kindergraves memorial site in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery, Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 16, 2020. The Ramstein Area Chief’s Group stepped in to serve as the entrusted agent for a new lease with the city of Kaiserslautern when the initial lease for the burial site was set to expire in 1986. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

A floral wreath sits in front of a grave site.

A floral wreath presented by the German-American and International Women’s Club lays in front of the American Kindergraves memorial site in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery, Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 16, 2020. The German-American and International Women’s Club serves as co-chair with the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group for the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation, established in 1986. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

An American flag stands next to a grave at a memorial site in a cemetery.

An American flag stands next to a grave at the Kindergraves memorial site in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery, Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 16, 2020. As part of an annual memorial service sponsored by the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation, in coordination with the Kaiserslautern Military Community and city officials, a flower and an American flag are placed at each grave marker in the burial site. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

A grave site with a statue of Mary and baby Jesus in the foreground.

A statue of Mary holding baby Jesus looks over the graves at the Kindergraves memorial site in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery, Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 16, 2020. Leadership from the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group, German-American and International Women’s Club and the Kaiserslautern Mayor’s Office attended an annual memorial service to honor and remember 451 American children who were buried in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery between 1952 and 1971. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Leaders from the Kaiserslautern Military Community and city of Kaiserslautern gathered for the annual Kindergraves memorial service at the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery, Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 16, 2020.

Leadership from the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group, German-American and International Women’s Club and the Kaiserslautern Mayor’s Office attended the annual memorial service to honor and remember 451 American children who were buried in the Kaiserslautern Main Cemetery between 1952 and 1971.

At the time, government and Red Cross resources were unavailable to send the children, mainly infants who died before 3 months of age, back to the U.S. for burial.

Since stateside burials were not possible, the city of Kaiserslautern donated the use of public burial plots for the infants, who were predominantly children of parents stationed in the KMC.

The city’s gesture was made under the condition that the burial sites be maintained by local groups associated with the military community. Members of the German-American Women’s Club fulfilled this role early on, but when the initial lease for the burial sites was set to expire, the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group stepped in to serve as the entrusted agent for a new lease with the city of Kaiserslautern.

In 1986 the Kaiserslautern Kindergraves Memorial Foundation was established with representatives from the Ramstein Area Chief’s Group and the German-American and International Women’s Club serving as co-chairs.

The KKMF sponsors the annual memorial service in coordination with the KMC and city officials. The service includes laying of wreaths and a blessing of the graves. The foundation maintains the memorial site throughout the year by volunteer work and donations from the local community.