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WWII vet attends events honoring liberators

September 27, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - When Dan Fleming was drafted into the U.S. Army in June 1944, the war in Europe was winding down, at least in the minds of the people back home in the United States.

But Fleming said he had no doubt he was in a war zone while he was in Europe with a rifle company of the 317th Infantry Regiment beginning in December of that year.

"We were called citizen soldiers," Fleming, 85, said.

Fleming said he served in Germany and Luxembourg, and there was nothing but his rifle between him and the enemy during the Battle of the Bulge.

Although Fleming journeyed several times to visit some of those towns where he fought during the war, it wasn't until recently that he knew of the annual ceremonies conducted in those towns to honor the allied liberators.

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After learning of the ceremonies, Fleming went back for a number of them over the summer. He said it was a trip he will never forget and hopes to repeat for as long as he is able.

When Fleming arrived in Luxembourg, a bus was there to meet him and others who made the journey. That included a general from Richmond, Va., who brought with him an entire color guard.

"There were receptions with mayors of the towns, bands and children with flowers," Fleming said. "I went to three or four towns and it was amazing."

Fleming and his fellow veterans visited a Luxembourg cathedral where they were guests at the birthday party for the grand duke.

They also stopped at General George Patton's headquarters and met Patton's granddaughter, who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, and attends many of the annual ceremonies.

One day they journeyed to the cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg. Patton, and other members of the Third Army, are buried there.

Before his wife died five years ago, Fleming said, they traveled to these same areas five or six times but had no knowledge of the Friendship Week ceremonies.

"The mission is The Torch of Remembrance," Fleming said as he leafed through his extensive scrapbooks of the trip, during which he was present for the dedication of several new monuments.

"Every town put on a show with drill teams," Fleming said. "They made us proud."

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