"Today, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, is a time we have set aside to remember and celebrate these great Americans," said Jim Distler, Adjutant of St. Marys American Legion Post 103, guest speaker at the city's annual Veterans Day Memorial Service. The service was held on the Diamond in downtown St. Marys yesterday at 11 a.m.
In his brief remarks, Distler discussed two groups of American soldiers who, though from different time periods, both displayed the same sort of courage in fighting for their country.
Distler first spoke about a group of American soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and faced a superior German force trying to take away American control of the city of Bastogne.
"The city was an important strategic location for the Allies because it could be used as a base to launch a counteroffensive. It was even more important to the Germans, because it would mark the Third Reich's last hope of stopping the Allied march to Berlin," Distler said.
Distler explained that on Dec. 22, 1944, the German commander of the division surrounding the city sent his envoys to the Americans, demanding the surrender of Bastogne.
"After receiving the message, Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe exclaimed, 'Nuts!,' which became his official reply to the request for surrender. His reply so offended the German commander that he vowed that all the American soldiers would die. At the same time, it only served to rally the American troops and refuel their determination to defeat an enemy who sought to oppress the entire world," Distler said.
The members of the 101st Airborne Division were able to maintain their hold on the city, allowing the American forces to launch a counteroffensive and defeat the Germans.
Distler also recounted the tale of a group of seven Military Police from the 617th MP Company of the Kentucky National Guard.
According to Distler, the incident occurred this past March on the southeastern outskirts of Afghanistan, when 40 to 50 heavily armed Iraqi insurgents attacked a convoy of 30 civilian tractor-trailer trucks that were moving supplies for coalition forces. Three armed Humvees escorted these tractor-trailers.
"When the insurgents attacked, one of the Hummers was in the 'kill zone' and three soldiers aboard were immediately wounded. After three minutes of sustained fire, a squad of the enemy moved forward toward the disabled and suppressed trucks. About this time, three more armed Hummers, carrying seven MPs from the 617th MP Company of the Kentucky National Guard arrived on the scene. These seven Americans killed 24 enemies, wounded six and captured one. This handful of Americans, armed with persistence and superior training, outmanned and outgunned a force six times their size and led the 30 civilian tractor-trailer trucks to safety," Distler said.
Distler noted that these were just two of a large number of examples of the courage of American troops.
For more on this story, see the November 12th edition of The Daily Press.