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WWII Veterans Gather to Remember Battle of the Bulge

By Kevin M. Hymel, Historian on 1/29/2024

On Jan. 25, 2024, about 60 people, including six World War II veterans, gathered at Arlington National Cemetery’s Battle of the Bulge Memorial to lay wreaths and remember the fallen from one of the deadliest campaigns of World War II.

The Battle of the Bulge, fought from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, got its name from the wedge that the German army drove into the American lines in the snow-covered forests and fields of Belgium and Luxembourg. The U.S. Army suffered 75,000 total casualties defeating the German offensive.

The ceremony commenced with a prayer from Madeleine Bryant, whose father fought with the 84th Infantry Division during the battle. “We will never forget that true freedom and peace always requires tremendous sacrifice,” she told the attendees. After the prayer, representatives from Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as the American veterans, each laid a wreath at the memorial.

Several veterans reflected on their service during the snowy battle. “The Germans had white camouflage and we had on olive drab, so guess who was the best target?” said Benjamin Berry, a veteran who served as a truck driver in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army.

Jacob Ruser, who served as a combat medic for the 4th Infantry Division, recalled his role in the battle. “I went out as a litter bearer to pick up the wounded,” he said. “I would take them back into the aid station and treat them before we evacuated them.”

Once the ceremony ended, the group moved to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guard and to lay another wreath. Berry and Ruser were joined by fellow veteran Andrew Valero, who served with the 9th Infantry Division, to lay their wreath.

During the wreath laying, tears rolled down Valero’s cheeks. “I couldn’t hold it in,” he said afterwards. “I was thinking of all the guys who didn’t come back.” Ruser appreciated the remembrance ceremony. “It was quite an honor to lay that wreath and respect our friends,” he said.

Once the ceremony ended, Berry reflected, “it’s so nice to be honored especially since so many men gave their lives.” He then emphasized that the 80-year-old battle still felt very close to him. “I’m so happy the ceremony didn’t bring back any flashbacks.”