2020 continues to give us new information about what is actually happening in the world – in all it’s ugly, horrific truth, and also where the shadows of ourselves need to be brought into the light.
When we look back over our lives, we can identify many turning points and crossroads. Places in which we had a CHOICE on how to proceed. In reality there are no ‘mistakes’ or ‘wrong choices’ because each choice we make still leads us to where we need to go. Even those choices that bring tremendous pain and grief. Those may be the most powerful as the parts of us we have refused or weren’t ready to look at are ready to be explored.
As I look back over the last 10 years of my life, specifically from 2015 to the present when I began traveling and living in Europe, I am seeing many things. New connections. Things healed I did not realize were. Lessons learned. Hard times and good times. If I could go back to my first trip overseas, I would have made a much better attempt at journaling my days every night before bed. However, that trip was so packed and I was so exhausted most days I didn’t. I have a million photos from that trip to remind me what we did. Some notes in my journal but not at the depth I wrote on my second trip. The second trip I took alone and it created even more change than the first. What follows are the journal entries (for the most part) of my second trip which created an even more powerful spiritual transformation in me.
These articles were originally posted on my WWII Research & Writing Center website in 2015.
If you are interested in some of my European and Spiritual Journey since this trip, pick up a copy of my memoir, I BRING DEAD GUYS HOME.
October – NOvember 2015 Journey through europe and my soul
1 November was one of my very favorite days of the trip. That morning I drove to Achtmaal, Netherlands to meet some of the Friends of the Timberwolves at the Achtmaal Museum. I met Esther, Adrie, Sjaan and Kevin, Peet, and Herman.
The day was perfect. Warm sun, a slight breeze, colorful fall leaves falling from the trees, and new friends. We met at the museum and after coffee and cookies with a history lesson thrown in, I had a tour. Time was short because we had a lot to see that day, so on my trip in May I will have to try to meet with the group again and see more of the museum. The museum houses not only Timberwolf artifacts but also artifacts from other groups who fought in the area.
Upon completion of the tour we hopped in two jeeps and took off through the countryside. Peet was my driver and also the man who gave me a history lesson over coffee. As we drove, he told me about the routes we took, where the fighting occurred and details about the men and war. We stopped at many sites to see where battles happened, including were my friend John Tyrrell was wounded.
It was very interesting to look at my photos and the little bit of video I shot while Peet was driving. There are a lot of red orbs in my photos. Soldiers watching and waiting. Protecting. Usually they don’t show up quite like that in my photos. But there they were!
Seeing the places battles were fought, or concentration camps where so many died, is high on my list of things to do when I visit Europe. What is difficult is trying to picture these now serene, often beautiful places through the eyes of someone who was there 70+ years ago. Trying to wrap my head around what happened there and then put that into words that explain it, is difficult. It is often unimaginable the horrors that took place in such a calm place where crops grow or sheep graze today. And everywhere we went, I could feel the presence of all the soldiers, regardless of side on which they fought, in those fields. In some areas, like the Battle Between the Dikes, the energy was so intense it rode in waves through me.
After visiting many places the Timberwolves fought, we stopped for lunch in an old building where I met Toine Vermunt, a local historian and author. Toine gave me a short history lesson after lunch before we departed the area. He showed me maps of Holland and explained where the Timberwolves were, what happened at the building we were having lunch in, and what we would see in the afternoon. The Battle Between the Dikes. Toine gave me a booklet in English, he wrote a few years ago explaining this battle. I am grateful to have this history.
Toine rode with us to see the area where the Battle Between the Dikes took place, after first stopping to lay flowers at a Timberwolf Memorial. It was as if the Timberwolves were waiting for us because the energy at the memorial about dropped me to my knees.
Our next stop was at a woman’s home where we were allowed to walk behind and stand by the canal and look at the area where the men were fighting and attempting to cross. Another beautiful place where such horror occurred.
Driving through the areas where the Battle Between the Dikes was fought was intense. The energy from both sides argued with each other. The Allied soldiers were calmer and just wanted to go home. The German side was angry to the point I was feeling a bit nauseous for a while. I cannot count the number of times that day I said clearing statements to send people off into the light and transmute the energy.
As the afternoon began drawing to a close, our last stop was at the Basilica in Oudenbosch. We had about 15 minutes there because they were about to close. It is another place to which I must return. The Basilica is a small replica of St. Peter’s in Rome. Small does not do it justice as it feels gigantic and I felt very tiny in that beautiful place. I was able to light some candles for my soldiers and say some prayers before we left.
The Basilica held a lot of energy also. It felt heavy as if every prayer, question, wish, hope, dream, despair, frustration, and death that ever was left in the building, remained. In a way I was happy to only have 15 minutes in that place. After such an intense day, any longer might have done me in.
After returning the jeeps to the Timberwolf HQ and saying goodbye to my new friend Adrie, the rest of us went out for dinner before I drove back to Ammerzoden, where I was staying for two weeks.
The day I spent with the Friends of the Timberwolves was one of my favorite days from this trip. It was incredible and moving to be surrounded by people with such passion for World War II and our soldiers. People who understood the soldiers still walk in the mists and live among the items in their museum. People who honor the memories of those who gave them their freedom. And, my absolute favorite part of the day – meeting Kevin who is a teenager and has the desire to preserve the stories of these men. It warms my heart to see young people wanting to be involved in this work. It provides the promise that when the older generation is gone and my generation is aging, there will still be someone sharing the stories and memories.
In the Netherlands, daylight savings time came a week earlier than in the U.S. This was good because I got an extra hour to roam around Amsterdam. The anxious energy from the morning however, had returned after I got back to my hotel to sleep. It was a long night of strange dreams and wondering if I was going to get up when I was supposed to. I had plans to meet another friend. When I finally woke up in the morning, I was so NOT myself I had to cancel my plans. The energy had shifted to sad, anxious, uncertainty, and a general feeling of unease. The best thing to do was be alone.
After breakfast at the hotel I made my way back to Ammerzoden determined to be alone and deal with the energy swirling everywhere. I met a lot of people from the past the day before, a couple who really touched my heart. One in particular left me with a lot to think about where the future is concerned.
The owner of my B&B had pointed out several places I should try to see in the Netherlands and one of them was on my way back to Ammerzoden. I saw what appeared to look like a castle from the highway and a sign for Zaltbommel. The car kind of pulled itself off the highway and toward village center.
I found a great parking spot behind a castle and near a forest. It was a quiet Sunday morning as I wandered into the center of the village. I found buildings which had stones on them from the 1500 and 1600s. Near one was a café with outdoor seating. The air was crisp, but the sun was shining and a calm breeze was blowing. It was a perfect morning to sit outside and enjoy a bit of tea and light lunch.
After lunch I strolled through the village and found a gorgeous church. It seemed all the original entrances were closed and locked but I heard the most beautiful choir singing as I walked past taking pictures. The building was beautiful as were the buildings surrounding it. I continued my stroll on cobbled streets to the village gates to see the harbor.
As I headed back toward the car I saw a cemetery. I love cemeteries. Most of them have very calming, peaceful energy. Two people were talking at the gate of this one so I chose to not enter but walked the forest path around the cemetery. The sun shined brightly through the trees as colorful leaves and acorns fell around me. I saw the most beautiful ancient tree in the back of the cemetery. The kind of tree you just want to hug. Since I couldn’t go into the cemetery, I found a tall, old tree on the path to lean against, ground myself, and draw power from. I took the most beautiful selfie by that tree as the sun beams swirled around me.
When I felt the energy had grounded enough for me to move on, I headed back to Ammerzoden and took a walk into the village to again light candles in the chapel. Lighting candles was becoming a peaceful routine for me. It gave me extra time to be still and think about the trip, my life, where I had been and where things were headed. And, most importantly, make another wish that I hope someday comes true.
In the evening I stood outside my B&B as the almost full moon rose above the fields. Full moons have power and allow us to let go of things and accept new things into our lives. As I stood under that moon making wishes and declaring intentions and releasing things that no longer served me, old stories surfaced. I ended up going back inside to write a story about a past life and another great love. Maybe it was a sign that someday a great love will show up in this life.
I pay attention to my dreams. Often they take me on confusing journeys or I see people I know and then have to figure out what it means. Sometimes the message is very clear, as in a name of a person or place in all caps right in front of me. When disturbing dreams emerge, I really take note of what’s going on.
Still sick with a cold, I slept in again on Wednesday. 12 hours of sleep! The soldiers let me sleep and didn’t start banging around the B&B until after 9:00 a.m. My original plan for the day was to visit Vught Concentration Camp and see a museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Those plans derailed after a dream I had the night before about WWII and my first European speaking engagement. I took the dream to mean I should avoid the camp and city and do something else. Traveling alone does have its benefits. There is no one to complain you totally rearranged your day.
So where did I go instead? A friend recommended Heeswijk castle after seeing photos of Ammersoyan castle. Heeswijk was not far away and it was where the 101st Airborne unexpected landed in September 1944. The castle opened at noon and I thought the website said their restaurant at 11, so I headed in that direction intending to have lunch before the tour.
After arriving at the castle I found the restaurant did not serve food until noon but I was able to have coffee and a cookie while I waited for the tour to begin. The office even gave me a copy of the tour and main points about the castle’s history in English. The tour was in Dutch and I was the only English speaking person in attendance. Armed with my history and a lot to look at in each room of the castle, I was good to go!
I think every soldier who ever fought and died in the area around the castle, and those attached to the castle from centuries prior, showed up that day. The energy rode in pressure waves through my head off and on. I had such a headache when I was finished with the tour.
The castle was built in the 14th century in part. It was added to in the 16th century. No photos were allowed to be taken inside the castle but it was simple and beautiful. Unfortunately much of the original items had been sold off in years prior, but enough was still there to give a visitor an understanding of what the castle had been like in various centuries.
One really cool part of the tour, for the historian in me, was the archive room which we entered through a ‘secret door.’ The room contained historical photos, paintings and the family’s genealogy! I really wish I could have taken photographs in that room!
Walking through the castle, as the energy ebbed and flowed, the soldiers spoke. They reminded me of things of past lives and spoke of things yet to come. When the tour concluded, I made my way to the restaurant where I had a beautiful and delicious salad with greens, goat cheese, and a variety of nuts. Dark wheat bread and some yummy her dressing/butter accompanied the salad. Adding hot tea, I was set. It was very relaxing and I sat there so long enjoying the beautiful lunch that I saw a bride in her wedding dress walk out to go into the castle to be married. I was grateful, as I assume she was, that the grey skies were not crying.
After lunch I drove back toward my B&B and made a stop at the walled village of Heusden. I parked outside the village walls and walked in through the village gate. The entire place was quiet because not many were out this rainy afternoon. I stopped in the visitor’s center to see what maps or history they offered and watched a video about the history of the village and St. Catherine’s Church were on 5 November 1944, there was a fire which killed 134 civilians. The fire was caused by the Germans blowing up the church where the civilians were taking refuge.
I wandered through the village along cobbled streets admiring the old tilted buildings and architecture. It felt as if the medieval version of me was seeking something. I wandered until I felt I had done enough.
Again the universe spoke. I listened and wrote in my journal. Passing by St. Catherine’s, I took some photos and said prayers for the souls who were lost that dark day. Then it was time to depart. I had explored enough of my past for the universe to say, ‘OK you can leave.’
Later that evening I wrote more about my day. A past life me came through and told me about a place I had lived with someone I loved very much in that time of Heusden and in a similar place.
Sometimes the universe and my soldiers have lessons to teach or wisdom to impart. They will go to any lengths necessary to make sure I am paying attention, even if it means the inconvenience of a flat tire and small cold. And that is what happened on 19 October – a flat tire and small cold.
I made it to Ammerzoden in a little over two hours and before it was dark, with no issues with the tire. The B&B owner, Tonja, was there to greet me and show me my home for the next two weeks.
Hedelbed is a sweet little B&B situated near a quiet field by the dike. You do hear birds, insects, the occasional horse, wind rustling through the trees, and the occasional car, but otherwise it is calm and peaceful. A perfect place to stop, think, rest, be still, and write. I had a large room with a bed and living room area, a kitchen, bathroom and if I wanted to bring guests on my next trip, there was a second room with beds off the main entrance.
On this trip I had tried to plan a few days of nothing. This meant I could sleep until I woke up, go where I wanted, eat what I want, or just do nothing. These were not days to meet someone, attend ceremonies, or give a program. Going with the flow for the trip and taking advantage of almost every opportunity meant I had only a couple of days like this left in my three weeks. Until, the universe and soldiers intervened and said, ‘STOP!’
On Monday evening I went to bed and did not set my alarm for an early hour. I did set it with enough time to get ready to go get the tire replaced in ‘s-Hertogenbosch 15 minutes away. I intended to be there by 9:00 but it was closer to 10 and that was fine. The tire was replaced within an hour and a half which was plenty of time to write and just be.
Sitting at the car dealership I realized the best thing for me that day was to go back to my cozy B&B and have lunch and hot tea, a nap, and then think about what to do next. It was NOT to go off to play tourist all over the place. And, I needed groceries for my B&B, so off to the local grocery store I went!
I had a luxurious nap that afternoon and when I woke decided to walk into the village and see what I could find. Tonja had mentioned a bakery in the town center. Bakery usually means something chocolate and yummy, so that’s where I went.
The bakery was off the main road and had more bread and dessert options than a person could eat in a year! I had an Appleflappe (apple turnover) and coffee while I wrote. When I was finished I took a piece of chocolate yumminess with me and went walking. I first went to the church and lit a candle.
Over the course of the trip I lit candles in most churches or chapels I found. I lit them primarily for my soldiers and certain living people I was meeting on the trip or had unfinished business with. By the end of the trip I was even lighting them for myself. We all need help. The chapel was very small but full of love and I sat there a long time thinking. It became a wonderful spot to sit and think over the two weeks I was in Ammerzoden.
When I finished I walked down a road off the main road and stumbled upon Ammersoyen Castle. I knew I was staying within walking distance of one, but had not looked on the map to see exactly where it was. I didn’t go into the castle since I had food with me and it was getting close to closing time, but I did walk around the outside.
Across the road from the castle were the ruins of an old church. What ghosts wander there inside the building and on the grounds? I so desperately wanted to go inside the church but the entire area was fenced off. There was however an open gate and I did walk through and explore the outside of the church from a closer viewpoint.
The entrance to the main church yard was barred and locked. It appeared they open it on special event days only. I was able to take some photographs and conjure stories of what might go on there, especially after dark.
The walk back toward my B&B was peaceful and along the way I noticed another street that looked to lead to the dike. Feeling pretty good, I had to investigate! I found a bench along the narrow road which ran along the dike and sat there a long time. Cars passed. People on horseback rode by. And couples walking their dogs slowly moved past me. The skies were threatening rain but every so often the sun peeked out.
I sat on that bench a long time writing and just breathing in the country air while watching the barges and boats float by. Looking down that narrow, winding road, I knew another day before I left, I would have to return and take a long walk. See where the road led. But for this moment, sitting was the right answer.
Solo travel is good and, I feel, required at certain points in life. While on those journeys, sometimes being forced to stop and realize it is for your own good, can open marvelous new doors and ways of thinking and being.
The last three plus years, as I’ve navigated the life of being a single mom, business woman navigating uncharted territories, and becoming more spiritually aware, there have been times I’ve felt frustrated and lonely. Frustrated because no one is doing the kind of work I am and therefore I have no one to ask if there is an easier way. Lonely because the more I tap into my intuition, listen to the soldiers, or see signs (numbers, coins, feathers, etc.) and pay attention to my dreams, the more I see people walking out of my life. You see, a lot of people think those of us who communicate with anyone or anything on the “other side” must be crazy. We are all different. And all human. I think we should learn to honor and respect each other as humans with differences.
On this trip to Europe however, I was surrounded by people who understood me. Some didn’t quite believe all the things I did, but kept an open mind. I was finding my tribe. One such woman who totally understood me was Mathilde Schmetz, who runs the Remember Museum (M&M Museum) with her husband Marcel.
I spent a few hours with Mathlide and Marcel and my friend Ralph on Saturday 17 October. It was not enough time to hear all Mathilde’s stories about the soldiers in the museum or really absorb the amount of materials there. I did however, get to sit on the bench at the table the 1st Division Soldiers used during the war! Mathilde and I took a photo together there. Needing more time at the museum, I returned on 19 October before driving to Ammerozden, Netherlands, where I was to stay two weeks.
The morning of 19 October was drizzly and a bit foggy when I set off from Simpelveld, Netherlands back to Thimister-Clermont to the Remember Museum. Thank God for GPS because I was stopped on one road less than 5 km from the museum due to tractors blocking the road. Turning around I had to try two different roads before I ended up on one that was not taking me in a circle and heading in the general direction of the museum. The adventure felt a little like my soldiers were taking me on a journey so they could see places they fought.
Along the way I hit a bad patch of road and the car bumped. I hoped nothing had happened to the tires as I continued toward the museum. Upon arrival, Mathilde greeted me with a big hug and coffee. We talked a lot about the soldiers and how they talk to us. She agreed we must keep their memories alive and teach
others how to do it and pass along their stories. She completely understood all the “crazy” things I told her. After some conversation she said she would take me to Henri-Chapelle Cemetery to meet Bobby Bell, the superintendent. I had not made it there on Saturday.
Bobby Bell and Lou Aske were very excited about the work I am doing and the research books I wrote. I’m so grateful for Mathilde for taking me there because they have a good relationship with the Museum. I didn’t spend much time in the cemetery, even though I had a long list of men to visit. It was lunchtime and the skies were still promising rain, so I visited one soldier and we headed back to the museum.
Over a warm lunch of soup and bread in Mathilde’s cozy kitchen, she, Marcel and I talked about the war. Then it was time for a short visit back to the museum. I was able to see the entire museum but not spend enough time there. You really need an entire day or more to see it, hear the stories Mathlide tells, and just be present there.
Everywhere you turn there is a photo of another soldier from the war. Often, you will see a photo of him when he was an old man at home or visiting the museum. What researchers may not understand is museums like this are full of research possibilities. Examining the photos and documents available in the exhibits and carefully viewing details within the exhibits can add a lot to research or a soldier’s story.
When it was time to leave the museum for my 1.5 hour drive to Ammerzoden, I realized that tour of the Belgian countryside my soldiers took me on, resulted in a flat tire.
My FIRST flat tire ever!And it happened in Belgium! HA!
Thankfully Marcel was able to help me get it aired up and patched so I could make the trek to Ammerzoden where I was then able to replace it the next day. I was also feeling a bit tired and as if a cold was coming on.
I suspect the soldiers knew it would be an inconvenience for me to deal with the tire, but they had some lessons to teach. And teach they did. I was a willing student.
If you are ever in Belgium near Henri-Chapelle cemetery, you must visit the Remember Museum. Be sure to plan several hours there to take it all in. You will not regret it.
After leaving Bastogne on 17 October, I drove to the Remember Museum in Thimister-Cleremont, Belgium. I spent two nights in Simpelveld, Netherlands as I made my way toward Ammerzoden, Netherlands. My visit to the Remember Museum was shorter than anticipated and I ended up returning on Monday 19 October. The morning of 18 October I had a lovely breakfast at the B&B Atelier, Galerie en beeldentuin in Simpelveld. I slept in the blue room of this artist’s studio and home. It was a very peaceful place with a kind owner named Carina.
After breakfast my friend Ralph arrived to take me out for the day. Our first stop was the World War II cemetery at Margraten – the Netherlands American Cemetery – to meet Ben. We arrived when the cemetery opened and it was very quiet even though a bus load of photographers arrived at the same time. The fog was still slowly rising off the land and the trees were bursting in color as leaves fell gently to the earth. It was almost as if the soldiers were hanging out waiting for us to arrive. It was quite a different experience than my first on 3 May during the Faces of Margraten. The energy on 18 October was very calm and peaceful.
The three of us visited the graves of many soldiers I have researched and talked about our respective research interests. Then at 11:00, our friends arrived and said we would have pancakes in Gulpen. That sounded great to me!
Pancakes in the Netherlands are not what Americans make at home. In most ways, they are better! You can have a pancake which has the base of a crepe more than a fluffy American pancake, with almost anything you want on it. The one I chose had ham, bacon, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, and oregano on it. Delicious! It was so large, it covered a large plate and I could not finish it.
After lunch we took a few photos and then Ralph and I were on our way to meet Ronald in Maastricht. After leaving Margraten on 3 May, my parents and I drove through Maastricht but we did not stop. Instead we went to Valkenburg. This was the right decision at the time but my heart knew it had to go back to Maastricht on the next trip.
I had a feeling on this trip I was going to explore my medieval past lives, one in particular with someone I was supposed to meet on the trip. The rest was unclear. What was clear the entire time, was the fact I was drawn to churches, cathedrals, and other buildings and villages which existed between 1100-1500 when the medieval period ended in Europe. There were some 1600 buildings which drew me to them but I’m not sure what that is about ….. yet.
Maastricht is an old city full of history, drama, war, sacred places, and love. The one place I desperately wanted to see was the Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore, the bookstore in an old cathedral.
Ronald and Ralph took me there first thing and I wandered around looking at the architecture, windows, walls, floors, old floor markers where people had been buried, and the books. So …… many ……. books. I did purchase one on the history of Margraten Cemetery.
The rest of our afternoon was spent walking all over Maastricht and Ronald and Ralph told me stories about what happened there during World War II. Along our walking tour we saw many cathedrals. We entered one to light some candles. The cathedral had a calm feeling with a mixture of sadness, joy, and hope.
It felt a little like home, and in a photo Ralph took of me, it seemed as if the current me was there but also the past me. After we lit some candles and said our prayers, I had time to walk through the darkened building and sit quietly with my thoughts for a while and explore. It is one place I hope to return for a longer period.
Our afternoon ended with a snack and beer in an outdoor café with more talk of war. It was a little drizzly, but that did not stop us from enjoying ourselves. It was a day of magic and healing for the soldiers who follow me, and myself.
Have you ever felt the energy crackling and happy, as if you knew the person you were about to meet would change your life? Or perhaps they were some long lost lover or best friend you had not seen in lifetimes? The more our awareness increases and vibration raises in love and light rather than darkness, the more attuned we become to the energies around us. Paying attention to these different energies can prepare us for meetings with new people. I had experiences like this on both my trips to Europe in 2015. An important one for my fall trip was on 17 October.
My friend Mark, had arranged for me to meet Helen Patton. Mark felt Helen and I had a lot in common and the projects we had would fit well together. When Mark arranged the meeting, the energy moved in such a way as if to say, ‘Your best friend has returned! Yay!!!’
This meeting was a last minute change to my itinerary before I flew to Europe. As I stated in an earlier post, I went with the flow for this trip. The change required me to skip visiting the Ardennes and Henri-Chapelle Cemeteries and miss meeting two Belgian MIA researchers. There are times when the universe says, ‘DO THIS NOT THAT,’ and magical things happen when we listen. Interestingly, 17 October was my final morning in Bastogne, a place very important to my heart, for reasons that only now make sense.
My friend, Doug, whom I had spent 15 October with at the Sauer River Crossing sites, would meet me earlier in the morning for coffee and then we would meet Helen at Le Mess. I was able to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before checking out of Hotel Melba and making my way to the Tank in Bastogne to meet Doug. As I departed the hotel I spoke with Helen, who had to push our meeting from 11:00 to noon. That gave me approximately 1.5 hours to chat with her before I had to leave for the Remember Museum near Henri-Chapelle.
Have you stopped to think about how slow time moves when we are children and how quickly it moves when we are adults. I had 1.5 hours to speak with Helen, and in that time we needed to get to know each other and talk about projects. It might seem like a short time but was exactly what we needed.
I was able to leave Bastogne for the Remember Museum before 2:00 p.m. where I was going to meet another Facebook friend and visit the museum. Helen and I accomplished a lot in that short amount of time and gave each other a lot to think about. A working relationship had been formed. And most importantly, it was enough time for her to decide to re-arrange her schedule the week of 26 October and attend two of my talks in the Netherlands.
Now the question was, what other exciting things would happen on my trip. This was only day 4! I still had more than two weeks left of my trip.
Some days on my trip were very long, not in a bad way, just that a lot happened. 15 October was one of those days. Less than two weeks before I left for Europe, I stopped in Starbucks one morning to grab coffee and breakfast. I had been up since 4 a.m. working and needed a break. A man named Ron, a regular there, stopped me to chat and asked what I did because I did not have my laptop with me. Usually I go there to work. When I told him, he told me about his uncle Paul Gurgone who was Killed In Action (KIA) at the Sauer River Crossing in Luxembourg on 7 February 1945. He gave me a little information about Paul and I went home to do some research for him.
I requested Paul’s IDPF and received it within an hour. The soldiers are always helping me with my work and I know when a record shows up so quickly, that soldier has something to say. Interestingly, Paul was temporarily buried in Hamm (now Luxembourg) Cemetery with my cousin James Privoznik. James still sleeps there. I returned to Starbucks a couple days later to see what Ron had on his uncle and talk about the IDPF. I explained I was not going so deep into Luxembourg this trip so would not see the Sauer River Crossing sites.
Fast forward a couple of days and I emailed Tom Scholtes to confirm our meeting with Doug Mitchell on 16 October at the CEBA Museum. Tom responded and said I had two options of WWII sites to see that day, which we then moved to 15 October. One was a German Panzer route and the other, are you ready for this????? The Sauer River Crossing sites of 7 February 1945! I think the entire Chicago area heard me scream with joy when I read that email.
Tom had no idea Paul Gurgone had been hanging out in my house. Of course I chose the Sauer River Crossing sites. Ron couldn’t believeit when I told him! I may have been bouncing all over Starbucks when I did. Knowing Paul’s IDPF said he was KIA near Junglinster, I looked at the map to see where it was. Very close to Luxembourg Cemetery. I asked Tom if we could stop there so I could visit my cousin James’ grave again and talk to the Superintendent. He said yes.
My first visit to Luxembourg Cemetery was 1 May 2015, a very rainy, cloudy, sad day. I brought James’ burial flag with me and we flew it over the cemetery. My dad and I folded it when it was lowered. That day was important for me because James had been with me three years helping me with his story which I published in my book Stories of the Lost and my research and career. He also made sure I met certain people on that trip who had a huge impact on my life on several levels. The idea of visiting James again was exciting. I had healed a lot of things in myself since my first visit.
15 October 2015 – first half of the day
The morning arrived and I drove through the fog and slight gloom to Ettelbruck, Luxembourg along country roads, to meet Tom and Doug. Our first stop was to be Luxembourg Cemetery. Tom and Doug are encyclopedia’s of WWII knowledge, so I heard a lot of history during the day. Doug is also a photographer and took many photos of our day, even capturing some intimate moments.
Scott then took us outside to James’ grave and spread Omaha Beach sand on it so we could read and photograph it. Do you know, James made the sun appear as we began walking to his grave? The atmosphere of the cemetery was so different from my first visit on 1 May. There was no more sadness, just extreme happiness and joy. The soldiers were cheering because we had arrived to visit and the sun shone down upon James.
The four of us, me, Scott, Tom, and Doug, spent some time at James’ grave and then we each moved on to visit others in the cemetery. I had a spreadsheet of soldiers I had done some research on, that I wanted to visit at ABMC cemeteries in Europe this trip. I visited each of those on my list for Luxembourg Cemetery, photographed their graves, and then returned to James’ grave to have a talk. He and I talk all the time, but it is different when you are at the cemetery.
James and I talked and laughed, and shed only a tear or two, about our journey together the last three years, as the sun shined down upon us both. A journey which allowed me to walk along a career path no one else was, in the sense of what I was put on this earth to accomplish. A journey which took me into the light and dark sides of myself and the war. James, and the research I did for his story, put me in contact with many people in Europe and the U.S. who each played a role in the work I was doing. Some of those people I came to realize, had very old, past life ties to me and my soldiers.
There was a lot of healing to do on my part so I could move forward and continue the work I was doing, without it killing my soul. Three years of constant war research, particularly into the lives of those who were KIA, takes its toll. There are days I cry and scream at the universe asking why I was asked to do this job, write these heartbreaking stories, and tell them over and over to the public. And question, ‘Does it even help anyone?’ Then I calm down and know it does and continue on.
There are many in my life who think I’m crazy because I know when the soldiers are near. I know when the soldiers help me with my work. And I can hear and see them on some level. Visiting Europe brought them all out. And they have similar issues to us – consciously or subconsciously, we are all seeking acceptance, love, forgiveness, closure, healing, and a multitude of other things. When we work on our own issues, heal and let go, it helps everyone.
Each of us is on our own journey in this life and that’s ok. We do not have to believe what the other believes. I do feel strongly we should at least respect what the other believes and feels. And I know many who have researched their family history or their soldiers, understand what I’m talking about. They do connect with us. The question is, are we willing to listen and do what is required?
Stay tuned for more on this incredible day with Tom and Doug. We’ve only just begun!
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