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Explained: Celebrating the past in Bastogne, Belgium | Article

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Sergeant Christian Reims of Bastogne, Belgium, December 16, 2023. Lance served as a color guard leader during a parade through the city as part of the 79th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. (U.S. photo: Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux spokesperson)
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army soldiers standing outside before the parade.)

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Durmen Tower Barracks, Germany – In my five years at the Benelux U.S. Army Garrison, this is my fourth visit to Bastogne, Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge commemorative event, and each visit has been better than the last. I can say without a doubt that there is.

Having the opportunity to participate in Battle of the Bulge anniversary celebrations and parades is one of my favorite things to do in Europe. I have had the honor of being part of the color guard that marches through the great city of Bastogne every year.


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Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux march in color guard for a commemorative event in Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 11, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux Public Affairs Officer)
(Photo credit: Four members of the color guard leaving Patton Square in Bastogne, Belgium)

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Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux stand in formation during a commemorative ceremony in Bastogne, Belgium, December 10, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux Public Affairs Officer)
(Photo courtesy of: U.S. soldiers waiting in formation outside.)

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Having family members who fought on both the Allied and Axis sides, I found myself with great respect for those who fought and died at Bastogne. Being part of both cultures that were at war with each other not too long ago is a powerful reminder of the complexity of history and the resilience of human connection.


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A Lance officer holds his son Rudiger, who was saved by a British army major. Rüdiger is Christian Reims’ grandfather. (Provided photo)
(Photo courtesy of a police officer holding a baby.)

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Private Sergeant Sterling in Le Havre, France (provided photo)
(Photo credit: A soldier sits outside a building with a gun in his lap.)

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This year’s weekend visit to Bastogne was spread over two days and gave us the chance to explore the site of the battle and learn about the history of the area.

Our first day started early in the morning in the 101st (Easy Company) trenches. Visiting this site gave me a small glimpse of what it was like all those years ago. But I don’t think the situation is as dire today as it was 79 years ago. It was a privilege, as it is every year, to come to such a sacred place and get a glimpse of history.

The next stop on the list is the Bastogne War Museum. With so much to see, we started by learning a little more about the soldiers who fought in Bastogne and the civilians who lived in and around Bastogne.

I was able to see what life was like for the civilians who lived there and understand why even modern people are so proud of this area. The sense of unity between the local community and the members remains as strong as ever.

At the end of our first day in Bastogne, some of the soldiers and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and speak English with some of the École Communarde de Mageret class at Mageret Elementary School. It was an honor to answer the children’s many questions about life in the US military and my work in the military.


Soldiers from the Benelux U.S. military post visited students at the École Communale de Magere in Bastogne, Belgium, on December 15.  (U.S. Army photo: Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux spokesperson)



Soldiers from the Benelux U.S. military post visited students at the École Communale de Magere in Bastogne, Belgium, on December 15. (U.S. Army photo: Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux spokesperson)
(Photo credit: Two men standing at a blackboard in a classroom talking to children.)

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On Saturday, Dec. 16, USAG Benelux soldiers took part in the annual Bastogne Historical Perimeter Walk, which spreads out around Bastogne and where the most violent parts of the Battle of the Bulge took place. This is a great experience every year that allows you to get to know the culture and camaraderie of Bastogne and the various military and civilians who participate in this event.

The formal part of the day was the parade, a key moment where I was responsible for leading the color guard through the city. The experience was an honor as it was my first time in a position like this.


battle of the bulge 2023



Soldiers from the Benelux U.S. Army Garrison march in formation during a parade in Bastogne, Belgium, Dec. 16, 2023. The parade was part of the city’s commemorative events commemorating the 79th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. (U.S. photo: Libby Weiler, USAG Benelux spokesperson)
(Photo courtesy of Soldiers marching through the city in formation with a color guard.)

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The response from the Bastogne community was particularly pronounced. Their support and gratitude was not only touching but also highlighted the strong bond between visitors and locals. This interaction was a highlight of the visit and fostered a sense of connection and hope for similar opportunities in the future.

As I concluded my visit to Bastogne, I reflected on my gratitude for the sacrifices of the soldiers during the siege and the importance of preserving this history. At USAG Benelux, we honor Bastogne’s historical heritage and cherish our time here.

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