The Bayonet

Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2012

Fort Benning honors German and Italian Memorial Day

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Alongside American Soldiers, more than 50 Italian and German soldiers are laid to rest in the Main Post Cemetery. Though far from the country they served, their memory is not forgotten. Every November, it is honored during German and Italian Memorial Day.

Held this year on Nov. 28, the ceremony recognizes the memorial holidays of both countries. For Italy, it is the Giornata delle Forze Armate, or Armed Forces Day, Nov. 4. For Germany, it is the Volkstrauertag, or Day of Mourning, the second Sunday before Advent.

“Today’s ceremony in Fort Benning has a long-standing tradition,” said Karola Rosenberg, the guest speaker from the German Consulate General in Atlanta. “Fort Benning is one of many places where the Americans seeded cooperation and friendship instead of hate. In 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, you treated your prisoners of war well. And it was a grand gesture of generosity and of reconciliation to lay the 44 German and seven Italian prisoners of war to rest here at Fort Benning together with your own fallen Soldiers.”

Lt. Col. Ulderico Ricci, Italian liaison officer to Fort Benning, said his country’s holiday is “a national date of unity,” and he believes that German and Italian Memorial Day here in the U.S. is a further representation of unity between partner nations.

“It’s not just for Italians and Germans,” he said. “This is also the occasion to commemorate all soldiers who died for their nation and the soldiers who are currently defending our freedom. We must not lose hope for a better world, and we must believe in the human being. Today is a testament that something can change. Americans, Germans and Italians — one time enemies — are commemorating this day together. If we don’t believe in this, all the sacrifices will have been in vain.”

Lt. Col. Frank Schuster, German Infantry liaison officer, said that in light of history, it was “wonderful” to see Fort Benning celebrate German and Italian Memorial Day, evidence of friendly relationships between the countries.

“Not just allies but friends,” he said. “Living on post here, we’re able to feel it every day. That’s friendship. And it’s really good.”

Rosenberg said the friendship is a fruit of the generosity represented in burying the foreign POWs here on post and maintaining their graves.

“And for this friendship, I am personally thankful,” she said. “So let us hope and pray for the safe return of all soldiers fighting at this moment in crisis areas all over the world. This day is not only a day of morning and a day of remembering. This day is also a day to remember this friendship, a day to have confidence in the future, a day of optimism and of pride in what we have accomplished together.”

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