FORT BENNING, Ga. (Nov. 15, 2018) - Soldiers, civilians, Family members and members of the community gathered under rainy weather for a German and Italian Memorial Day ceremony at the Main Post Cemetery here Nov. 14.
Forty-four German and seven Italian service members of World War II are interred at the cemetery, and Soldiers of the Maneuver Center of Excellence lay wreaths to honor those service members annually.
Col. Douglas G. Vincent, the chief of staff for the MCoE and Fort Benning, explained how service members of the Axis nations were brought to the U.S. as prisoners of war, were held under minimal security, and worked in factories, on farms, and in many occupations. Some of the prisoners died, according to Vincent, of war wounds, illness, accident, or other reasons, and were buried at nearby installations. As installations in the U.S. closed, these deceased German and Italian service members were reburied at Fort Benning.
"As we look forward to our future as partners in peace, it is appropriate that we remember these fallen Soldiers of an earlier generation and offer prayers for their peaceful rest, far from their homeland and from those they left behind," said Vincent.
"We do not only commemorate the fallen soldiers, but all victims of war, violence and persecution and suppression," said Olaf Ladegast, deputy general consul of the Federal Republic of Germany to Atlanta, who spoke during the event. "All of our solidarity goes out especially to the relatives and the bereaved of victims. I am grateful that we together commemorate the deceased: Americans, Italians and Germans but also many representatives of many other nations that were still enemies in World War II. This shows the progress that we have made on the way to reconciliation. How far we have come on that path is shown impressively at this very spot."
Laura Piccoli Grant attended the ceremony, representing Italian Ladies of Fort Benning, of which she is president.
"I think it is a great sign of respect from the American community, Fort Benning and the United States Army to recognize these soldiers who were prisoners of war here in the United States at a time where the U.S., Italy and Germany were not allies, but were in fact enemies," said Grant. "I think it is great up to this day we are recognizing them and giving them the respect they deserve."
To see more photos from this event, visit www.fortbenningphotos.com/Ceremonies-and-Events/Off-Post-Events/2018-Events/2018-11-14-German-and-Italian-Memorial-Day-Ceremony.