To some extent this story is an extension of the first story in this Trip series. It, like the Siegburg story, is about another bridge being rebuilt and that crossing bridges would ultimately become a significant part of the message behind these revisits to the past. Some of it contains references to that earlier story entitled: “An Amazing Grace.”
It is another part of the story of what happened in the vicinity of Luneville, France, that ultimately defined Steve’s and my European trip. It is difficult for me to find the right words to express their magnitude. But, a huge nagging question in the back of my mind haunted me as to why a 92-year-old man would to take such an daunting trip in the first place. And, even more perplexing, who would want to be a partner in such a venture. I couldn’t really get a grasp on all of it until that warm pleasant day in Eastern France. The amazing part of it all was that I didn’t even want to go to Luneville in the first place.
As previously stated my original interest was focused on finding a very small village nearby where 72 years ago, I had an innocent, but poignant affair with a young woman which was interrupted by circumstance. My need was to go back and explain to her why I left town so quick without her knowing the reason. It was not any love affair, but just something that always haunted me in the sense that something was left mysteriously undone. Maybe I was just curious to see how things turned out with her, or maybe just curious, who knows? But, as with unfinished business, questions remained.
I relied on my partner Steve to do the detail work involved in traveling on the cheap. As a former field grade Army Officer, he filled in the necessary detail gaps of my normally disorganized behavior. Further, I hadn’t really given much thought to Steve’s reasons for going on this somewhat unusual trip. This was no vacation or sightseeing trip. This trip had a different set of purposes. It was aimed at going back to revisit places where we took part in momentous events, to see what things might be like now – better or worse?
Well, our stories do bring out some of that change. Most of it heading in a positive direction, as documented in earlier accounts of our visitations. July 13, 2017 was a game changer. The third previous story in this series entitled: “Brothers Reunited,” gets at the reasons why. That story was inspired and photographically illustrated by a man and wife, named Andrew and Christa Wakeford.
Andrew and Christa had no knowledge of who I was, or what I was about, except that I was a combat Veteran of WWII, and was retracing my steps of 72 years ago with another combat Veteran of Afghanistan and Bosnia wars, Steve McAlpin. That was good enough for them to welcome me and share precious solid elements and stories of combat Veterans. Their career lives revolved around that kind of sharing. Steve was one of the combat Veterans they had interviewed, photographed, and featured in a book published by the National Geographic Society entitled: “Veteran’s Voices.”
The first picture below shows the four of us in Luneville, standing against a wall containing a plaque commemorating the Free French Forces of WWII. The second shows Steve holding up his page as shown in the publication: “Veteran’s Voices.” He is standing facing the other side of the wall, with part of the Village of Luneville at his back.
The Veteran’s Voices book was a companion piece to an earlier book titled: “Portraits of Service,” and published by Patton Publishing. A publishing firm owned by the Granddaughter of General George S. Patton, Jr., Commanding General of the US Third Army in Europe in which the 13th Armored Division served in the last days of WWII.
With all this coming together, right in front of me on that day, my mind was reeling. I knew that something bigger than what I had originally planned was being lighted right in front of my very eyes. These happenings did not occur just by chance. This message of our trip had more to it than just a simple description of places revisited. Andrew Wakeford, further communicated to me his realization of the exceptionality of Steve. I cannot locate his exact words, but my memory tells me he knew Steve and he would be in some form of communication with him beyond what was recorded in “Veteran’s Voices.”
Prophetic to be sure, as our meeting in Luneville was one portion of that exceptionality. I had no idea what was in Steve’s mind when he set up the lunch date in Luneville as a part of our trip. It became more than a simple memories trip. It morphed into a mission.
A mission that would cry out: “There are life changing factors that, if properly deployed can change the world. Change it for the better. Change it in ways that can be carried out by those who can hear and add theirs to those Veteran’s voices.
Offer is what every Veteran, irrespective of how and where they served, does when he or she takes on the burden of service. We need each other. Combat Veterans have a deep understanding of that. Having your buddy’s back is the most important aspect of the Veteran’s duty. Family partnership operates the same way. It is what makes us who we can truly be. It has changed us. Steve and I can now see better. We now know that what we had to do had to be done, painful as it was.
In our trip, we saw a France and a Germany with open borders, not check points. We saw green fields, rebuilt factories, stores with full shelves, on and on. We saw an English husband (Andrew) partnered with a German wife (Christa) who loved, supported, and worked with each other, who dedicated a significant part of their efforts to seeing that Veterans Voices were being heard. We saw the effects of those voices on former enemies. We saw a way to a better and family-oriented world.
Most importantly, we saw that within the power of each of us who hear our Veteran’s Voices an opportunity to spread their messages to those who follow and can make their offerings for a better world. An opportunity that can be carried out by all on the website “Relighting Us.” A place where offer and us can come together. Where our family’s voices can be heard in ways to relight the roadways to the peace so many Veterans offered their lives to preserve.
Veteran’s Voices have many bridge building messages. Message of human respect, that when understood can bring about what Steve and I were witnessing. Bridges being rebuilt. Previously closed doors being opened. Humanity resurrected. Opportunity appearing. On and on.
Publishers and authors of Veteran’s Voices go about recording powerful stories of that building as described in this series of stories. Recording and publishing in ways that bring out the best in us.
The power of the meeting at Luneville opened that door.
We all have that power.