Battle Creek - I am often asked why I participate in the
Volkstrauertag, German Memorial, at Fort Custer Memorial Cemetery every
year. My answer is simple, “Guten Morgen und Viel Dank.” I said those
words to each gravesite as I put a German flag on each tombstone at sunrise
on Sunday, November 18th. By saying those words I am paying
respect and giving thanks for the service these men gave to their country,
and I believe that is the same reason each person came to the service.
The service started with Pastor Gary Siefert from St. Paul Lutheran Church
giving the invocation. The national anthems of Germany and the United
States were sung by the GBU-Saxonia Rheingold Chorus, Mrs. Edith Kuplent,
president. Roy Luera, the Director of Fort Custer National Cemetery, gave
the welcoming address. He admitted that he was a bit conflicted because his
father was held in a German POW camp as an American serviceman.
Several special guests were in attendance including German POW’s Ernst
Floeter and Oskar Schmoling. The memorial address was given by Lt. Col.
Bernd Wirtz, the German Liason Officer from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
in Dayton, OH. He spoke about the “Forgotten 26”, but because we have a
memorial service for them every year, they are truly the “Unforgotten 26”.
It was a very moving address.
Quite a few wreaths were presented and placed at the grave sites. The first
was from the German Consolute in Chicago, presented by Lt. Col. Bernd Wirtz
and Capt. Roland Schneider. Donna Lippert presented a wreath in honor of
Stephen Fuchs, Founder of the German Pulse website, a website intended on
keeping the German-American heritage alive for the younger generation.
Reinhard Lippert presented a wreath in memory of Josef Baumann, Founder of
the Benton Harbor DANK club of St. Joe and Benton Harbor. Heinz Reinhault
presented a wreath for the St. Joe Kickers Sports club. Erna Felgner and
Barb Radewald presented a wreath in honor of the Germans from Russia club.
David Rutter offered a wreath from the Kalamazoo German club. Marian
Krenzer presented a wreath from the German-American Culture Center. Dave
and Marian Heinz donated a wreath from the Benton Harbor DANK club. Frieda
Helms presented a wreath in honor of Marsha Amstudz and the Toledo
Following the wreath ceremony, the GBU-Saxonia Rheingold chorus sang several
additional songs in German. The Fort Custer Honor Guard performed military
honors by firing a 21-gun salute. Taps were performed by Lt. Col. Nicholas
Batch and John R. Edwards. Pastor Siefert gave the benediction.
The ceremony was followed by a social hour at the local Air Force Sergeants
Association 774 Falcon Hall were everyone enjoyed cake and coffee. Special
thanks go out to the ladies of the German/American community and Continental
Pastries for making and donating their cakes and services. They are Traudel
Werner, Margit Naesset, Michelle O’Neil and Rosemarie O’Neil. The Peter
Dams family was a big help in cleaning up after the service.
Everyone was reminded to pay their respects and give thanks for the freedoms
our servicemen protected. Next year’s service will be held on Sunday,
November 17th, at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek,
Randy O’Neil MSM