By Capt. Luke Bushatz, 1st Brigade Combat TeamDecember 20, 2011
BRUSSELS, Belgium (Army News Service, Dec. 20, 2011) -- The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, flew to Brussels Dec. 8 to celebrate the 67th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge on what is referred to as "Nuts Day," complete with tours, parades and awards.
In ceremonies two days later, Lady Augusta Chiwy, a Belgian nurse who saved hundreds of Soldiers during the battle, was awarded the Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service from the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Chiwy treated Soldiers at the 10th Armored Division's aid station and even out on the battlefield.
"A black face in all that white snow was a pretty easy target. Those Germans must be terrible marksmen," Chiwy was quoted as saying during the battle.
Chiwy was also given a Letter of Appreciation from the Department of the Army and the 101st Airborne Association for services rendered as a civilian nurse giving aid to U.S. Soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge.
In June, she received Belgium's highest honor, the "Knights Order of the Crown," which is why she is addressed as Lady Augusta Chiwy. Men who earn the title of Knight are addressed as Sir, before their name.
Representing 1st BCT was Col. Joseph P. McGee, brigade commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin R. Benson, brigade command sergeant major, and retired Army Sgt. Maj. Joe Bossi, the honorary regimental sergeant major.
"It was an honor to be part of the presentation to a Lady who was committed to support and assist our wounded Soldiers," said Benson.
"As all Soldiers know, there is a bond that is forever embedded in those that have been to combat in the same organization. Being in the Bastogne brigade and having the opportunity to thank and decorate an incredible Lady will forever be one of my finest military memories."
During the Battle of the Bulge, the largest battle of World War II, it was a cold, winter night when then Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division, received a letter from the German forces Dec. 22, 1944, requesting the surrender of all American troops under his command near the town of Bastogne, Belgium.
McAuliffe replied to the German commander with one simple word: "Nuts!"
To this day, the country of Belgium still honors McAuliffe and the 101st Airborne Division.
While in Brussels, the U.S. and brigade representatives toured the National Military Museum where the museum was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for its support of the 101st Airborne Division.
Also present for the ceremonies were U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Robert A. Mandell, Brig. Gen. Michael A. Bills, the operations officer for U.S. Army Europe command, and Maj. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the deputy operations officer for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe.
"Part of being a Soldier is understanding the past, knowing the importance of the battles that have been fought and understanding the long term ramifications of how we conduct ourselves in combat," said Benson.
"In the years to come, those that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan will receive the same thanks from the grateful population of those nations," he said.
"We are all true ambassadors as we conducted Operation Iraqi Freedom and continue to succeed and accomplish our mission in Operation Enduring Freedom," Benson added. "Every Soldier, rank irrelevant, has a lasting impression and lifelong historical imprint during combat operations and the proper conduct and respect of the population is paramount to what an American Soldier is all about."
Also on Dec. 10 at the Bastogne Barracks, certificates of appreciation were presented to the city of Bastogne and Jonny Bona, curator for the 101st Airborne Museum, for continued support of the division.
Later that afternoon, a patriotic procession reached the Patton Monument, where a wreath-laying ceremony preceded "TAPS" played by Belgium's Royal Air Force Band.
A wreath was also placed at McAuliffe Monument, followed by "TAPS" and speeches by McGee.
"You just saw a city of Belgium's stand at attention during the playing of the U.S. National Anthem and render honor to the sacrifices of a nation that is not their own," said Bossi.
When the procession reached Town Hall, citizens, re-enactors of the Battle and visitors entered into the courtyard, where the nuts were tossed into the air.
"The Nuts Day Celebration was very well done and the whole town of Bastogne seemed to come out for the event," said Benson. "Units from Germany as well as Veterans, a Belgium Unit, and school children marched with Colonel McGee and me to lay wreaths on the General Patton Monument as well as the Brigadier General McAuliffe Monument."
Fought over the winter months of 1944 to 1945, the battle involved 600,000 who stopped the last major Nazi offensive. Of those, 81,000 lost their lives while the Germans lost 100,000 killed, wounded and captured.
(Both Capt. Luke Bushatz and Sgt. Jon Heinrich are members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team)