The first weekend in August I had the incredible honor of attending the Eleventh Armored Division's final reunion. These veterans were sent to Europe just in time to participate in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, and part of the division rode in the three vehicles that liberated Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.
I spent the weekend with heroes. Even today, 65 years later, they don't see what they did as a big deal. Instead, it was their duty. They did it well. And they came home to live their lives.
I was there to listen to stories. And boy did I! I talked to women, asking what their experience had been like during the war. Learned tidbits and details that will make it into books.
Then I got to spend a lot of time chatting with the gentleman in this photo with Tricia Goyer and her youngest. Chet served in the 11th. But what I found fascinating is that he spent time at the Hollywood Canteen and the Stage Door Canteen in San Francisco. We spent almost an hour talking about his experiences stateside before he was shipped out. Then, last night at the dance, he started telling me about what Mauthausen was like. Unfortunately, the band started playing again so we'll have to continue that conversation. But he is such a delightful gentleman, I can't wait to talk to him again.
And then at the dinner Tricia, her friend Michelle Hill, and I sat with the sons and daughters-in-law of a vet that Tricia knew well. I was spellbound as they recounted their dad's stories with passion and zeal. I so wish I could have met this hero before he died.
Tricia, thanks for inviting me along. It was the experience of a lifetime. And one I hope I won't soon forget!
And thank you to the men of the 11th Armored Division (past and present) for all you did. I didn't say it lightly when I told you you are my heroes. It was an honor to meet you and share the weekend and your stories. May God continue to bless you!