In Honor of April 25 -Liberation Day in Italy: an excerpt from “Romancing Through Italy”
©2017 Robert James Connors
…It was on our first trip in 1995 that we learned much of why the bonds between Italy and the United States, as well as other allied nations, are so strong. It was thanks to our friend George and many others that they exist at all…
“…George then surprised us by appearing in a complete WWII U.S. Army uniform, only his familiar lined face and white hair giving him away. He seemed transformed His dress shoes gleamed, and even his belt was polished. At age 80, George was suddenly, once again, an American soldier. On his shoulder he wore wore a blue quadrifoglio patch. We asked, and learned that it was the symbol his 88th Division, known as the ‘Blue Devils.’ Because of the shape of the patches they were also sometimes referred to as the Clover Leaf Division. Those were names that would echo through our experiences.
Our first visit to Italy was about to come to an emotional crescendo. George had barely arrived before he was surrounded by a small cluster of men, some of whom hugged and kissed him enthusiastically on both cheeks in the Italian manner. Most wore the distinctive peaked cap of the Alpini troops, marked by their plumes, and many had dressed in remnants of their old uniforms as well. This was to be a reunion of heroes, a gathering of those who had survived the terrible conditions and bloody fighting. The crowd began to swell and the band struck up a lively tune. Entire families turned out.
We had been to observances in the United States that drew little attention beyond a few veterans, family members, and an honor guard. In Italy, it seemed, they paid much closer attention to their history. We only later began to fully understand the terrible sacrifices that had been endured, and how indelibly those events were burned into the communal memory.