By Julie Piron, USAG Benelux Public AffairsSeptember 28, 2018
CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- On Sept. 19, Joint Force Command Brunssum hosted six World War II combat veterans as part of their tour of the Benelux area. In the Budapest conference room, Soldiers and civilians from different NATO nations gathered early to welcome the veterans and demonstrate their gratitude. The veterans introduced themselves and shared their stories with the audience, reminding all about the importance of the duty to remember.
Pfc. John Coates, Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph G. King, Staff Sgt. Thomas Rice, Pfc. George Schneider, Maj. Edward Burke and Cpl. Fernando A. Torres have different backgrounds and experiences but they have one thing in common: they were all part of operations in the Benelux area. From the well-known Operation Market Garden to the Battle of the Bulge, those brave Soldiers kept some vivid memories of their time serving the U.S. Army in Europe during WWII and did not hesitate to share those with the NATO workforce.
Lt. Col. Thomas Brooks, USAG Benelux Chaplain stationed in JFC Brunssum, decided to attend this rare opportunity as a way to honor WWII veterans.
"They have been through a lot and still took the time and trouble to travel overseas for a visit," highlighted Brooks. "I, as a chaplain, I've helped many times with graveside honors for WWII veterans. On this occasion, it was great to meet them in person and to get firsthand insight into their experiences and a firsthand feel for their character."
At the end of the visit, veterans that were in the audience took the time to shake hands and share some words with the attendees before being recognized by Maj. Gen. Alex and Col. Weems. "I'm impressed with their resilience. Each of these men experienced war with far less support than we enjoy. I think each of us should always keep this in mind so that we are more appreciative -- even on the toughest deployments. I'd also note that each of these men went on to live productive lives. If they could endure what they endured, we should be able to do so as well," concluded Brooks.