VICENZA, Italy – Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Italy returned a birthday cake to Meri Mion Thursday – 77 years after American troops fighting near Vicenza ate the cake made for her thirteenth birthday.
Mion, 89, of Vicenza, was the guest of honor at the midday event, held together with Vicenza officials at Giardini Salvi, very close to where the 88th Infantry Division fought its way into the city on April 28, 1945.
Sgt. Peter Wallis, a military police Soldier from Seabeck, Washington, presented the cake to Mion, with Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Italy. Hundreds of people – to include Italian soldiers, carabinieri, U.S. veterans and Italian veterans, plus many local residents, looked on.
"It was a little awkward, but it makes me feel great to give her the cake," said Wallis, who recently won the Installation Management Command – Europe Best Warrior contest in Baumholder, Germany.
The sun was shining in Giardini Salvi during the brief ceremony, where Gomlak spoke of the combat that occurred on nearby Corso San Felice e Fortunato. It was gray and stormy that morning when the 88th
Infantry Division Soldiers battled German defenders. Several U.S. tanks were destroyed and at least 19 U.S. Soldiers were killed or wounded. Other Americans, from the 91st Infantry Division, drove north from the Riviera Berica into the city. Later, they paraded through Corso Palladio, Vicenza’s famous thoroughfare, where Italians offered them bread and wine.
“That warm welcome by the people of Vicenza continues to this day,” Gomlak said.
In recent months, garrison staff, worked with the U.S. National Archives to find vintage combat imagery and film and presented that during the ceremony. It shows the horror of the fighting that took place along the Corso San Felice and the genesis of the friendship between the people of Vicenza and the U.S. Army, once the fighting subsided.
Mion, 89, of Vicenza, was a 13-year-old when the fighting came to her nearby village, San Pietro in Gù. She spent the night hiding with her mother in the attic of their farm. Retreating Germans fired shots near her house, memories that haunted her for years afterward. She awoke the next morning, Americans were nearby. Her mother prepared a birthday cake for her. Fresh from the oven, the cake went to the window sill.
“Her happiness turned into disappointment later when the resourceful American Soldiers made off with her birthday cake,” Gomlak said.
Mion thanked the Americans for remembering her and replacing her cake all these years later. She turns 90 on April 29. This year, she will take the cake home to share with loved ones, she said.
“Tomorrow, we will eat that dessert with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget” Mion said.
Soldiers from U.S. Army Garrison Italy returned a birthday cake to Meri Mion Thursday - 77 years after American troops fighting near Vicenza ate the cake made for her thirteenth birthday. Mion, 89, of Vicenza, was the guest of honor at the midday event, held together with Vicenza officials at Giardini Salvi, very close to where the 88th Infantry Division fought its way into the city on April 28, 1945.