Personal Post

To Be An American

Unknown Soldier

In August, 1968 I learned I was an American. I was travelling with a small group of college students through Luxembourg. We noticed that on Sunday a festival would be held celebrating their "Liberation" by General George Patton. We drove a rented Volkswagen Bus with German license plates, and to enter the town we had to cross a bridge. At both ends we saw knots of black uniformed policemen, leaning against massive Harleys. The old kind, the Hogs. A policeman glanced at the van, the German plates, and grabbed his radio. Within seconds those Harleys roared to life, the police jumped onto their motorized stallions, sirens blared, and suddenly our van was surrounded. A large officer slowly dismounted, walked to the driver's window. We were terrified. The officer barked an order in German. "I'm sorry, officer, I don't...." "PASSPORTS!," he yelled. I handed them over. Slowly he examined each one, then came back to my window and looked in the van. "But...you...you are Americans! We thought you were Germans! The Van? The plates? You are Americans!" Before I could answer he swung to the crowds, shouting in French, "THEY ARE AMERICANS! They are not germans! THEY HAVE COME TO OUR PARADE!!" He snapped his visor down, pointed a black gloved finger at me, shouting, "YOU! FOLLOW US!" With one magnificent sweep of his arm, the men kick started those splendid American machines with a Hell's Angels' roar. We started our slow, glorious one vehicle parade into the heart of tiny Echternach, the first Luxembourg town liberated by General George S. Patton. One day my French father-in-law told me, "In '43 we were standing in the fields of northern France. The planes turned day into night. We knew then the war was over. It wasn't just the numbers; it was the incredible morality of it all. That America would fight so hard, so magnificently to free us!" They have not forgotten. It is we... We have forgotten "the incredible morality of it all."

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