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Fifth annual Veterans Day draws a record crowd

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE Veterans Day, held each year on the last Saturday of June, attracted over 70,000 onlookers for the fifth annual parade. Originally started for veterans of the campaigns in the Dutch East Indies in the late 1940s, the event particularly drew younger veterans of more recent missions such as those to the Balkans and Afghanistan. About 3,500 troops and veterans, accompanied by seventeen marching bands, paraded past Prince Willem-Alexander, who took the salute. The parade included antique army vehicles, while overhead, helicopters and jets flew past. At the Ridderzaal (the Hall of Knights), Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reminded the crowd that the stories of veterans deserve a respectful hearing. The stories especially took centre stage at the Malieveld venue, where a huge gathering took place. Prince Willem-Alexander, who has taken the place of his grandfather Prince Bernhard among the veterans, was seen mingling with the veterans and children at Malieveld. The Boskantkerk was the venue for a different view. There the crimes of some Dutch soldiers serving in the Dutch East Indies between 1945 and 1950 were the subject of discussion. Particular attention was given to the plight of the Javanese village Rawagedeh in 1947, which was the subject of an alleged massacre, an issue which was raised by a number of redress seeking Dutch politician and activists in recent years.