Meet the Mayor!

Trip Start May 27, 2009
1
7
28
Trip End Jun 11, 2009


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Where I stayed

Flag of Netherlands  , Gelderland,
Friday, May 29, 2009

We started the day at City Hall.  We all were invited to City Hall for a reception by the Mayor of Nijmegen.  He honored the veterans that attended with a short presentation and then refreshments afterward.  All of us were given a coin that has been made for the the 65th anniversary of the liberation of The Netherlands.  They will hold celebrations in September when the actual liberation took place.  The City Hall was a beautiful old building that was here during the war and was used as a HQ for Allied Troops.

After the reception with the Mayor we all were herded back on the buses and were taken to the University of Nijmegen for yet another reception.  When we arrived outside the building were about 10-12 WWII military vehicles from the Keep it Rolling Vehicle Club.  It included a few jeeps, 2 CCKW,  WC 53 and more Command Cars then I ever saw in one place.  And also a Dodge Power Wagon.   They all looked good but they were more of a vehicle club then a reenactment group.  Accuracy was not top priority.  But the vets loved them and a few hopped in the jeeps for pictures and were surrounded by some of our young ladies that were with us.

We were addressed by the President of the University and shown a slide show of how the University has grown since the war.  The University was destroyed during the war and rebuilt outside of town on the property of a gentlemen who invented powdered milk.  He owned the property and sold it to the University.  Included on the property was a beautiful home that is called the Castle and we had lunch in that building.

We also participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the University at the plaque that was dedicated to the men of the 82nd Airborne.  The ceremony was complete with a color-guard, a choir and the laying of the flowers on the wreath.  They asked a number of veterans to lay flowers and it ended up being pretty emotional for one.  Howard Huebner sat back down and said, "my buddies, my buddies."   They still feel the scars of this even today.

We then moved on to lunch and had a chance to explore the MV's for a while.  We left the University and move off to Groesbeek.  This is the area in which the 82nd dropped in around Nijmegen.  We participated in another ceremony at the Monument dedicated to General Gavin.  It is a beautiful monument and we again had the color-guard, a choir and numerous presentations and once again a number of veterans were asked to present wreaths at the ceremony.  It was a very nice ceremony.  I am amazed how much the Dutch still appreciate these guys and what they did. They honor them, shake their hands, hug them and give them the respect that they deserve.  In short they love these guys.   Something that we Americans need to follow.  We do not love these guys enough.  We do not appreciate these guys enough.  And they will soon not be here.  We need to show these guys the love before we have no one left from this generation.

Ron Allen decided to do some scrounging and he was able to convince a Dutch gentlemen that owned one of the jeeps to give us a ride back to the hotel.  That was the highlight of the trip so far.  We actually took the jeep through Groesbeek and out to some of the drop zones of the 82nd.  Snapped some photos and the guy driving was telling us that the German Border was only about 5 minutes away. SO GUESS WHAT?  Off to Germany we went in an WWII Jeep.  Over the border and we drove into Germany for a few miles in the jeep.  So I can now say I was in Germany  in a GI jeep.  How cool is that.  And I have pictures.

 Our escort then took us back into Nijmegen and over the Waal River bridge in the jeep.  That was awesome, too.  And yes, I have pictures.  We cruised across the bridge, windshield down of course, and back again into Nijmegen. 

After we were dropped off, I was picked up by Martijn.  Martijn is a young guy that knew Paul Miller.  Paul was a medic with the 506th and he met Martijn on his last trip to Europe.  Paul died about 4 years ago but Martijn and I communicated via email and made plans to get together for the evening.  I went to the home of his girlfriend, Cindy, and his 2 year old daughter.  We had a blast and I got to see "The Attic" of GI stuff that Martijn has collected.  It was a very nice collection and I enjoyed an evening of WWII talk, beer and barbecue.  What more could I ask for?  After dinner, Martijn mentioned that he knew the exact spot where the E Co. of the 506th completed their charge during the Operation Market Garden.  Without hesitation we headed off to the spot.  It was awesome.  We parked our car at the German machine position and looked down the dike to the position Easy and walked over the ground they charged to the German position.  What a rush.  I saw the spot Captain Winters stood and opened fired on the Germans.  Yes, I got pictures including a small monument to honor that feat.  As it was after 9:30pm, we headed back to the hotel and I had Martijn meet a few of our vets.  He was thrilled.  I really enjoyed my time with him and Cindy.  They were wonderful hosts.  And I would love to visit and spend more time with them.

Late night to bed, after 12 midnight and a busy day tomorrow.  It is hard to explain all the feelings as I meet and discuss these vets' stories.  It is getting better every day.   
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Comments

npizzano
npizzano on

Side Trips
Rusty,
These little side trips are the real story behind your visit. I can only imagine the thrill it provides to go off the prescribed path and see some of the 'real' locations our boys walked and fought. To experience the view from the perspective of yesteryear must fill your mind with fleeting thoughts of realism that only one in your shoes could really understand. I hope to do the same one day in trying to find my dad's footsteps across Europe. Continue to absorb and share those side moments.

Neal

PS. My mother's ancestors hail from Gelderland. My mother's maiden name was Van Meter...shortened from Van Meteren back in the 1700's in the USA.

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