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A sobering reflection

| Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My wife Sandy and I spent a couple of weeks in Italy earlier this spring. We had a great time, saw a lot of ancient and Middle Ages history, ate a lot of pasta and experienced a very different culture.

Top on our list was of more recent history, a place we weren’t even looking for until something triggered a memory on May 13 as we were heading towards Florence. We called our daughter Katie and asked if she could find anything on the Internet about the American Cemetery; she got right back to us, told us it looked really interesting and said it was roughly 10 miles outside of the city. While it took us a full two hours to locate the cemetery (it’s really, really off the beaten path), our efforts were rewarded with a very moving experience.

It was like a mini-Arlington Cemetery, with headstones of 4,402 of our military dead arrayed in symmetrical curved rows on a beautiful hillside, with a memorial, chapel and Wall of the Missing (another 1,409 missing lost or buried at sea) at the top of the hill. The Cimitero Americano holds the remains of those who died helping drive the Germans out of the area in late 1944 (in fact, the Germans were chased all the way back to Germany.)

There was all kind of information about the battles, including a huge wall mural showing the various divisions who fought there, where the battles were and where the various troops moved on to when the area was cleared. Sandy seemed to think her Dad was part of the 10th Mountain Division and called her sister Debbie for some type of confirmation. Debbie in turn contacted their brother Jerry and we talked with him while tracing troop movements on the wall. It was pretty clear from the conversation — including the fact that her Dad actually went into Germany — that he surely was in the area while all this was going on.

Pretty sobering to realize had he been one of the 4,402, we would not have been standing there. Equally sobering, although not as personal, is the realization that we likely wouldn’t have been standing there were it not for all of those who gave their lives for our freedom.

So, it seems fitting on this Veterans Day to thank all of you folks who have served (or are serving) our country and have given of your time and talent to make the good old USA the very best. You should each be very proud of your service.


Paul Dillenburger

class of 1971

Nov. 9

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