By Karl Weisel (IMCOM)June 17, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - World War II veterans enjoyed a special steak dinner during the swirl of special events surrounding the 70th anniversary of D-Day in northern France, thanks to the efforts of Andrews Federal Credit Union staff and friends.
"Andrews was the chief sponsor of the event," said Mikel Russell, Human Resources and Marketing manager for AFCU in Wiesbaden and former director of Emergency Services for the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, explaining that AFCU teamed up with Steak Team Mission, based out of Texas, to serve about 600 Texas-style barbecue steak meals with all the trimmings to D-Day veterans and family members on June 5 during the 70th-anniversary commemoration.
"It was awesome," said Russell, adding that AFCU formed a partnership with the non-profit Steak Team Mission to "give back to the military community. We also got a lot of support from the U.S. Embassy in Paris."
Staff and a credit union member traveled to Normandy, France, to help serve the veterans and their families.
"We contacted the members of every veterans group we could find who were planning on attending and sent out invitations," said Russell. When word spread about the special event, several dignitaries, including Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., U.S. Army Europe commander, expressed an interest in joining the event to spend more time with the D-Day vets.
The setting for the lunch/dinner was the Chateau Bernaville in Picauville, France -- which was the headquarters for German Gen. Wilhelm Falley during World War II and now serves as the home for the Allied Conservatory Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering understanding about the efforts of those who served in the D-Day liberation effort.
Falley, who commanded the German defense of the Contentin Peninsula, was ambushed and killed by 82nd Airborne Division Soldiers early on June 6, 1944.
Russell, a retired U.S. Army officer, said the experience was highly moving. "I got a little emotional listening to the guys. A lot of them lost buddies that day, but not one of them was angry, nor held a grudge."
Besides hearing the personal memories of the veterans, Russell said he and his fellow volunteers from Andrews and the Steak Team Mission enjoyed a first-hand history lesson. While some had a chance to watch the events on a big-screen television at the chateau, others headed into Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first town to be liberated in France during World War II, where they mingled with fellow celebrants and enjoyed bagpipe music.
French families who welcomed the veterans into their homes during the commemoration were also invited to the special meal to share in the celebration, he said.
Russell said the AFCU partnership with Steak Team Mission will continue. Anyone who would like to get involved in joining the effort to feed service members and their families during special events such as an upcoming event at NATO Headquarters in September, can visit their website at http://steakteammission.org, he said.