The American Flag through the eyes of a veteran

This week, I had the absolute privilege to take my favorite veteran and grandfather, Ken Brown, to a Memorial Day ceremony hosted at the Freeport Community Library.  My grandfather, 90, is a World War II Army veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the 106th Infantry division.  My grandfather was a recent guest on the Conversations with Ed Bonney show, moderated by Bonney and filmed by Freeport Cable TV Director Rick Simard.  The program shares the war time experiences of local veterans. The library hosted a public screening of a compilation of Ed and Rick’s work, following hundreds of hours of interviews with my grandfather, and fellow Freeport residents Arthur Cooper, Martin Bailey, and Ed Fogg.

My grandfather not only fought in the Battle, but was captured by the Germans in December 1944. At the time of capture, he recalls the German army surrounding them and knowing what would ensue. After marching some 25 miles in horrible weather conditions, the Germans crammed my grandfather and his comrades into the so-called “40 and 8” box cars, designed to carry 40 soldiers or 8 horses.  My grandfather will tell you there were many more than 40 soldiers with him that day.

The train took them to Bad-Orb, Germany where they arrived at Stalag IXB prison camp on Christmas Eve, 1944.  Stalag IX B was situated on a hill and it was where he spent the next month of his life. He and other prisoners were then transferred to Stalag IX A for almost another three months.

I don’t feel the need to go into detail about his experiences as a Prisoner of War. I think we all have an understanding of how terrifying and life changing it was for all who endured captivity. But I do want to share that you could have heard a pin drop, and actually saw tears well up in many eyes, as he recalled seeing the American Flag coming up the hillside.

In his own words, my grandfather says, “Finally, on March 30, 1945, we were liberated by the 6th Armored Division.  Just imagine how we felt seeing those jeeps with American Flags waving.  After three months, 22 days and 5 hours, we were finally freed.” 

As I looked at the American Flag in the library, I found myself trying to visualize what that must have looked and felt like to the young men, many of whom thought that liberation day would never come. I realized then it is through the eyes of a veteran that one can truly behold the American Flag and all that it symbolizes. I, for one, will always remember my grandfather when I see Old Glory flying high.

As you mark Memorial Day in your facilities this weekend, I will also think of your residents and all who have served and sacrificed for the very freedom we enjoy today.

With a heart full of respect,

Nadine

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