Skip to comments.Columbians, fans cheer Bulge vets (SC)
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 its 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, Ill remember this as much as anything Ive 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. Pattons 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 weve 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. Its beyond my expectations. Were a small local and national organization. We didnt 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 wasnt 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 wasnt 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, its 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. Thats 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 cant 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. Wed clean that mess up.
Welshs son, George, 45, of Baton Rouge, La., flew to Columbia to be with his father for the event. Its been great to talk to all the soldiers and hear all the stories, he said. Then he chuckled. Im getting a lot of interesting information.
Neat, except Grahamnesty was there.
Thanks, Columbia, for being such great hosts for those vets.
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.
Later the announcer said that for $3 to $4 million, you too can have one.