• Last modified 6787 days ago (Oct. 27, 2005)
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The little red car

By Bill Meyer


As it clearly states above, this article is way too long, but we hope you'll read it . . . there is a message. Read on.

Four years ago when your Ol' Editor suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, and was technically dead for about six minutes, he had just agreed to purchase a little red car, a convertible. After several weeks he regained consciousness and noted his further limited physical condition. He told Friend Wife to cancel the agreement to buy the little red car. Our cardiologist overheard the conversation and said, "No don't cancel it, keep it. He needs it now, more than before."

That little car has provided fun, a chance to relax, and something to take a person's mind off stress of the day.

It has six gears on the manual shift, any of which are capable of getting the OE in trouble. He's found the only safe gear to be the one they call neutral.

The same is true as editor of the Checkerboard. After nearly 60 years in the newspaper business, most of that time spent writing highly opinionated editorials, the OE now must be bound by constraints of a non-profit publication. Opinions are not our mission. So we keep it in neutral.

That's the position we are in following the highly successful convention in San Antonio. The OE has an opinion, but won't put it in the CB. That's not the proper place.

We had a delegation from Belgium and an American who grew up in Belgium during the war. All have a right to their opinion, even when it clashes with others.

Christian de Marcken was the speaker at our Saturday night banquet. His remarks were well received as he told the traumatic experience of growing up in Belgium, as an American, during the horrible period of Nazi occupation. Christian is firmly opposed to Germans, saying "the only good German is one who is eating dandelions from the roots from the bottom."

Christian and his charming wife mixed with our members and proved to be a popular speaker. Few can imagine the hard times he endured during the war.

The Diggers — Phil, Lou, Luc, and Marc — attended again this year and presented three fabulous programs about their project. They have found the remains of more than a dozen 99'ers who died during combat. They also have conducted many tours of 99th veterans, friends, and others who want to learn more about the Battle of the Bulge. The Diggers are "special" to the 99th, and for good reason.

The M&Ms — Mathilde and Marcel Schmetz — were special guests at the San Antonio convention. They operate a private museum at their home in Belgium. It's a great museum and a tribute to veterans of the 99th. They also serve meals to returning veterans and generously offer special "Apple wine, which is smooth as silk but kicks like a Missouri mule." The M&Ms had a great time visiting with their 99th friends and seeing the San Antonio attractions. Mathilde is every 99er's "Belgian girlfriend."

Not present, but a man who has become a special friend of the 99th and who has become involved in a tumultuous controversy is forest ranger Erich Honen.

Honen is accused of participating in a publication which presents both the American and German side of the battle. Honen is of German birth.

Erich has been the person who opened the door for our Diggers in their search of the forest. He also is the one who found us a site, free of charge, to erect our 1st Bn. 394 memorial — when local Belgian officials repeatedly turned us down. We haven't paid Honen one cent (or Euro) but the Belgian political officials in past years have received hundreds of dollars in contributions from the 99th.

Following WWII your Ol' Editor would not have been caught driving a Japanese or German automobile. But times change. Over the years he's had a German car and now has two Japanese vehicles as well as an American Buick. One of the Japanese cars was made in Georgia and the Buick was assembled in Canada.

Go figure.

The OE has three times spoken at German-sponsored celebrations at Remagen — the 40th, 50th, and 60th anniversaries. At times he has been a bit offensive in his remarks about Germany (the atrocities in 1944-45 and their lack of support to Uncle Sam in Iraq). But the Germans have been hospitable and fully understood an old soldier's personal opinion.

When the ceremony was completed this year, on May 8, VE Day, the chairman of the German organization thanked your OE for representing the United States and said, "We'll see you in 10 years."

That's the spirit. Put aside our past differences and look forward to a better future.

There are those who may say "you won't get far in neutral gear," but let's remember that you also won't get into trouble.