CHIÈVRES AIR BASE, Belgium – During the 2022 Chièvres Air Fest distinguished visitors’ reception on June 25, 2022, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux leadership paused to honor two local community members: the 97-year-old widow of a World War II veteran and the mayor of Chièvres, Belgium.
Col. James Yastrzemsky, the commander of USAG Benelux, presented Arlette Hautmont Phillips, the widow of WWII veteran Curtis Phillips, with the garrison coin, thanking her for her service as an Army Family member.
Yastrzemsky also inducted Olivier Hartiel, the mayor of Chièvres, as an honorary knight into the Order of St. Michael, a distinction to recognize those who have made significant contributions to U.S. Army Aviation.
Curtis Phillips left his home in rural Georgia to join the Army during World War II. As a 20-year-old, he joined Company D, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, with whom he landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France.
The enemy surrounded him and a reconnaissance team he led, and he hid in a cellar for four days. His Family thought he was dead.
He survived, however, and persevered through France and Belgium. He fought in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, where artillery fire severely wounded him, and spent a few weeks in a coma. During his recovery, he was assigned to logistics battalion in Binche, Belgium.
Curtis met Arlette Hautmont in Binche. After the war, the Army brought him back to Georgia, and Arlette followed, making her own way by ship, bus and train through Germany, Denmark and New York back to rural Georgia.
After a year in Georgia, the couple moved to Belgium. They had three daughters and eight grandchildren.
Curtis Phillips died in 2021.
“There’s a saying in the U.S. Army that I heard not too long ago,” said Yastrzemsky during the ceremony, “‘The strength of our nation is our U.S. Army, and the strength of our Army are our Soldiers, and the strength of our Soldiers are our Families.’
“Our Families served and sacrificed and guaranteed the success of our service members,” Yastrzemsky continued. “So thank you again to the Phillips Family.”
Hartiel, as the mayor of Chièvres, the “Cité des Aviateurs (City of Aviators),” was inducted into the Order of St. Michael on behalf of the population of the town for their great contributions to Army aviation.
Hartiel, during his induction remarks, thanked all the emergency services personnel who took part in making the fest happen. He also thanked Yastrzemsky for their working relationship.
“I can’t think of a better place to be united, alongside our allies and partners, than right here,” said Yastrzemsky, referencing the 2022 Chièvres Air Fest. “It really is a strong symbol of a partnership, our unity, our military might and strength.”