Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Columbians, fans cheer Bulge vets (SC)
The State ^ | 3 September 2010 | Jeff Wilkinson

Posted on 09/03/2010 2:31:26 PM PDT by Feline_AIDS

Demetri “Dee” Paris of Silver Spring, Md., stood on the 50-yard line of Williams-Brice Stadium next to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, “2001” blaring, fans roaring and Gamecock players flooding the field in what has been called the greatest entrance in sports.

“Wow,” said the 95-year-old president of the national Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge organization, who had just tossed the coin to open the game. “I live near the University of Maryland, but it’s nothing like this. This is wild!”

Battle of the Bulge veteran Leif Maseng from Columbia rode with other veterans in a procession from Uptown Columbia to Williams-Brice stadium Thursday. They were acknowledged and waved to by the fans arriving for the televised Southern Mississippi-USC football game where the vets will also be honored.

His feelings: “Overwhelmed,” he said.

Said Graham, “I’ll remember this as much as anything I’ve done in the Senate.”

Paris, who served with the 9th Armored Division, is one of nearly 100 veterans of the 40-day battle who are in Columbia for their national conference.

The “bulge” refers to the bulge in the front lines that occurred when German troops launched a massive and unexpected counterattack in the Ardennes forest in Belgium and Luxembourg beginning on Dec. 16, 1944.

On Thursday, the veterans enjoyed a luncheon at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, featuring syndicated columnist George Will and Gen. George S. Patton’s grandson, Pat Waters of Mount Pleasant, as speakers. They enjoyed a motorcade down Assembly Street, a reception at ETV and a free ticket to the nationally televised USC-Southern Mississippi football game.

“This is the most exciting reunion we’ve had in 20 years,” said Leif Maseng of Columbia, president of the S.C. chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, which is hosting the event. “It’s beyond my expectations. We’re a small local and national organization. We didn’t expect this kind of recognition.”

The crowd, if one could call it that, along the motorcade route from the Marriott Hotel at Hampton and Main streets and down Assembly Street toward Williams-Brice Stadium was light. But when the line of about 40 military vehicles and antique cars packed with vets and their families reached the tailgating zone on George Rogers Boulevard, cheers, salutes and raised beverages gave the veterans a rousing welcome to Gamecock Country.

Frank Vetere of Seattle, Wash., misted up a little bit as he rolled along in a World War II vintage weapons carrier.

It wasn’t the first time Vetere, a member of the bridge-building 554th Heavy Pontoon Battalion in the Battle of the Bulge, had ridden on one of the utility vehicles. It was just the first time he heard anybody cheering.

“There wasn’t much ‘welcome home’ when we got back after the war,” he said. “It was pretty much ‘get a job.’ So when I see people waving flags like this … well, it’s emotional.”

About 19,000 Americans lost their lives in the battle. Vetere said when he talks to high school groups he puts it in terms they can understand. That’s 475 deaths a day, every day, for 40 days,” he said.

A larger than expected crowd of about 250 people had gathered at the luncheon.

Will, son-in-law of local Battle of the Bulge president Maseng, told the crowd that, although “you never imagined back then that you would be this old, and you can’t imagine now that you were once that young,” hey are remembered today for saving the world.

“I am proud,” he said, “to be in this room with so many unassuming, indisputable American heroes.”

Waters brought along the boots the famous general wore in the Ardennes when his Third Army rode to the relief of the beleaguered troops and helped close the bulge. They were a hit with the vets.

One of the veterans, Brownlee “Bob” Welsh of Charlotte, who was a reconnaissance soldier with the 87th Infantry Division, served with Patton in the Third Army. He said he wished the flamboyant officer could be reincarnated.

“I would be happy to go with him to Afghanistan,” the 86-year-old said. “We’d clean that mess up.”

Welsh’s son, George, 45, of Baton Rouge, La., flew to Columbia to be with his father for the event. “It’s been great to talk to all the soldiers and hear all the stories,” he said. Then he chuckled. “I’m getting a lot of interesting information.”

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: South Carolina
KEYWORDS: battleofthebulge; gamecocks; vets; ww2
FTW-“I would be happy to go with him to Afghanistan,” the 86-year-old said. “We’d clean that mess up.”

Neat, except Grahamnesty was there.

1 posted on 09/03/2010 2:31:27 PM PDT by Feline_AIDS
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Feline_AIDS

Thanks, Columbia, for being such great hosts for those vets.

2 posted on 09/03/2010 3:07:50 PM PDT by colorado tanker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: colorado tanker

A guy I sometimes take care of when his PCs go south is a WW II era Corsair driver. He is a great guy and the Corsair is one of my favorite prop jobs. He has some great photos he took during his time framed on a wall at home.

3 posted on 09/03/2010 6:19:25 PM PDT by wally_bert (It's sheer elegance in its simplicity! - The Middleman)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: wally_bert

4 posted on 09/06/2010 9:27:56 PM PDT by colorado tanker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: wally_bert
Doh! It was supposed to be a Corsair. I'll try again.

5 posted on 09/07/2010 4:29:32 PM PDT by colorado tanker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: colorado tanker
The 2010 Cleveland Air show had a Corsair do a flying demonstration, and later reenacted a WWII dogfight with a Zero.

Later the announcer said that for $3 to $4 million, you too can have one.

6 posted on 09/07/2010 4:39:19 PM PDT by Las Vegas Dave (To anger a Conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a Liberal, tell him the truth.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson