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Woman in The Netherlands connects family to Cincinnati war hero who died during World War II

Hubert C Alcorns gravesite, photo
Posted at 4:29 PM, Jul 10, 2023

PLOMBIERES, Belgium — Several times a year, one woman drives half an hour from her home in The Netherlands to a cemetery in Belgium to pay respects on behalf of the family of the deceased and the grateful Europeans who the man helped liberate.

"It's humbling," said Ester Sikkenga. "I'm really grateful. If I stand there."

Standing in a field of white ivory crosses, Sikkenga is one of many foreign nationals who volunteer to take care of the graves of American service members laid to rest in Europe.

"There's nobody to visit the graves, take care of the graves. It's sort of a symbolic title," Sikkenga said. "If you are a caregiver of the grave in Belgium, they call it a sentinel — primary sentinel of memory."

When she asked the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery for a grave, she was given Hubert Carl Alcorns, who joined the Army out of Cincinnati. He served in the 395th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division. He was killed on March 1, 1945.

Aside from taking care of the gravesite she and other sentinels often track down the history of service tied to their service member as well as attempt to make contact with extended family back in the United States.

"I sent a message to hundreds of people with the name Alcorns," she said.

Finally getting in contact with family, Sikkenga learned that before shipping off, Hubert Alcorns got married and adopted his wife's son. Eventually, she started talking with Alcorns' aunt.

"His aunt never had a picture of him, of Hubert. So that was really cool that I can show her the picture," recalled Sikkenga.

She’s cared for the gravesite since 2020 and likely his grave will remain in the family for the foreseeable future, even if she passes, as the caretaking of the grave will be passed on to surviving family members.

"It is really an honor to be a caregiver of a grave," Sikkenga said. "The connection with the family, yeah, that's really an honor."

It’s not just about taking care of the grave of Hubert Alcorns that Ester Sikkenga is involved with when it comes to our World War II veterans. She is engaged with a mission to create a recorded history tied to World War II. The foundation Behoud Oorlogsherinneringen, which translates to Preserve War Memories, is collecting memories of the war and cataloging them for all to watch, read and remember. You can find out more about that mission by visiting their website.

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can join the Homefront Facebook group, follow Craig McKee on Facebook and find more Homefront stories here.