Friday, July 09, 2010

thinking of bastogne at the mission home

Tonight Doug and I went to dinner at the mission home. We met President and Sister Hall who have recently been called to the Florida, Orlando mission.

Doug told a story at dinner that I have heard a few times over the years. It is a beautiful story:

"I am reminded of an experience I had back in 1985 on a cold winter night while traveling by car from Brussels to Luxembourg. The landscape that evening was covered in a blanket of white snow and the trees of the Ardennes looked dark and forbidding. It was near mid-night when my traveling companion/work associate and I neared the town of Bastogne. We were hungry and decided to take a chance that something may be open in order to get something to eat before reaching our ultimate destination. We exited the motor way and made our way into the town. When we reached the town square I was surprised to see a Sherman Tank sitting on a corner and many American flags draped from windows of the buildings surrounding the square. We found a café still open on one side of the square and entered to find only one other table occupied in the corner. We sat down and were soon attended to by the café owner who was clearly in the processing of closing. In fact, he was an older gentleman that came from the group that occupied the table in the corner. We explained that we were willing to eat anything he may have available at the late hour. When he determined that we were Americans he became very excited and animated to the degree we could no longer understand his broken English. We ultimately determined that he was insisting that we join the group in the corner for dinner. He offered to fix us anything we desired if we would join them at the table in the corner. How could we refuse? I was very surprised to find all those present except one lady were able to communicate in English to some good degree. For over two hours they told us stories of the Battle of the Bulge and of Americans they knew, hoping that we also knew their favorites. The meal was not near as memorable as the feelings of appreciation and love for the United States of America that these people expressed that evening. We were special people to them because of what our fellow countrymen and soldiers had done for them. I have never felt a greater sense of pride to be an American than I did that winter evening in Bastogne sitting with those who truly understood and knew what the ultimate sacrifice really meant. Before departing we all hugged and felt that feeling of common brotherhood that remains in that town to this day.

I returned to Bastogne a few weeks later and spent almost an entire day visiting the many monuments to General Patton, Brigadier General McAuliffe (of "Nuts" fame) and the American soldier. They sell "nuts" in most stores in the city in honor of the response General McAuliffe gave at the moment of the German's request for surrender. There are many American flags throughout the town and you just get the feeling that the fond memory of the Americans of those who live there will continue on for generations to come.

I have since taken my family to Bastogne in hopes that they too will remember and will hopefully pass on their feelings to their children. I have studied the battle and the lives of those who participated in it to understand why the people at the table in the corner felt the way they did. We have also visited the beaches and cemeteries at Normandy and General Patton's grave in Luxembourg.

The Mardasson Memorial, erected near Bastogne to honour the memory of the American soldiers wounded or killed during the Battle of the Bulge.

1 comment:

debbie said...

now I am going have to research the battle of the Bulge and refresh my memory