July 9th,…Brewton    

The City of Brewton is much like that of Péruwelz. James W. Carroll, the first American soldier to enter Péruwelz, coming from France on September 3rd, 1944, lives there. In 1995 we found our liberator there in Alabama. For a very long time the citizens of Péruwelz had thought that "their" first American had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge. It is only in 1994, for the 50th anniversary of the liberation that a search began in order to know where he could have been buried…On March 21st 1995, James sent us a fax: he was alive and well in Brewton, Alabama.


We were well known there and Brewton had managed to organize a really exceptional welcome for their friends from Belgium. Brewton was hosting Belgian visitors and a celebration had been planned for the local World War II hero. Our vintage vehicles were expected and the Confederate Air Force's "Texas Raider" B-17 "Flying Fortress" was also part of the Operation Overlord Returns. Our friends of the MVPA Dixie Division were waiting for us at the Brewton airport


There were lots of events in Brewton. Some of us were hosted by local families, the best way to discover the American way of life, far from hotels and McDonalds. The opportunity to discover the people who welcomed us, just as we did with the GIs in 1944.


We had a nice lunch in a house, that would have made a good setting for Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind". Then the official commemoration took place in the evening.


Much the same as it was on September 2nd 1944 in Péruwelz, the young man on the Harley was embraced and given flowers by a young girl and blessed by a priest. But this time it was a young Belgian on the Harley instead of Brewton native James W. Carroll. That re-enactment of Carroll's ride into Péruwelz marked the city's liberation. Then a convoy of US WWII vehicles arrived. Some of those vehicles had been driven from Washington, D.C.! The young "Belgian G.I." invited the girls from Brewton to dance on a Glenn Miller melody. The official commemoration honored all WWII veterans, a wreath was placed at the Escambia County memorial. Another moving part of the ceremony was a poem read by two young Belgians. It spoke of the heroism and sacrifice of all American veterans. The Mayors of Brewton and East Brewton welcomed the group and thanked them. Another moving part of the ceremony was the fly-over by the "Texas Raider" B-17 Flying Fortress, which made several passes over the ceremonies. Then there was a deep moment of emotion, as if we were back more than fifty years ago…and everybody applauded.


Some of the participants stayed there, those who had driven the 5 vintage vehicles from Washington, DC to Brewton. The others went to Mobile and Pensacola. Official commemorations had been prepared there.

The Veteran
I had never seen you cry like that
A man, an old soldier telling the story
It was on a summer night, on the terrace
A sweetness as if it was the South
And we listened to your memory
You could see your twenty-year-old friends
Their bodies on the beach, in the Normandy bushes
And the huge Battle of the Bulge
You also remembered our little town
You were the first American
On your Harley, symbol of recovered Liberty
Spearhead of the Liberty Soldiers
Girls, flowers, crowd, joy and hope were recovered
"Voulez-vous promenade, Mademoiselle", you asked
And then, you were gone again
Sedan, Luxemburg, the Ardennes, the Elbe
From time to time cursing those officers who led you there
Here, we all thought you had died
Only your memory lived in our minds
As a powerful symbol
We found you half a century later
In your home state Alabama, way down south
Every year you come back
The girls from 44 recognized your smile
And your eyes, so blue that love could drawn in them
Here, you are with those who became your family
And also hundreds of friends
We are celebrating with our vehicles dating from another period
But moreover with a warm friendship
With you, we know its true and strong meaning
The one that unites people as in combat
Beyond what they called patriotism, languages and culture

I remember, one day
As we were visiting a display
"I was 20 years old in 1944"
An old woman came over to you with a child
"Say Thank You to this gentleman"…Merci Monsieur!
Thank you veteran
We will never repeat this enough!

And also, during the first days when you came back
You met with an old German soldier who now lives in Peruwelz
By modesty, we left both of you together,
Because you were crying in each others arms
Just men thrown in a stupid combat
That they did not control.

I also remember this cemetery
It was at Luxemburg
Lines of white marble crosses
It was at Luxemburg
Wearing your uniform
You were saluting Patton
And you said this phrase
"Here are those who are mine"

Then came your last departure
From Bon-Secours
And you wanted to leave your uniform
The one you were wearing with pride in front of Patton
Pretending your suitcase was full
We both of us caught some kind of farewell
And you would be with us in our minds only
Gathered to continue the memory
Of a tradition, as every year
I am listening to Glenn Miller
Alone in my room
Alone with some kind of ghosts
Those from Omaha, Utah and Bastogne
They came from America to bring us Liberty
They left their fiancées, their mothers, their wives,
All of those who define a man
A cruel departure at the dawn of life
They are alive in our memory
As a Liberty Soldier doesn't die
He shades off, he fades.
I want to drive my jeep
Marked with the star
And drive without end
To recall those who are shading
Those who are fading
So that their memory can live forever,
Symbol of recovered Liberty
We have to cherish, we have to defend.
July 11th…Back in Brewton    
Our friends who had stayed in Brewton enjoyed a marvelous surprise. The team of the Confederate Air Force invited them for a flight in the B17 "Texas Raider". They will certainly remember that unique event! In the evening Post 79 of the American Legion in Brewton had prepared a farewell evening. That was an opportunity to thank all our friends from Brewton and also to meet veterans and their families. I remember the man who was 3 months old when his father was killed during the Battle of the Bulge. His father's tomb is now adopted by some members of the group. I also remember the old soldier who had met Patton. I was surprised when he told me his general had already lived 7 lives. As I did not understand, he explained me that your brain improves during each life. And Patton was so clever that he had certainly lived seven lives! How often have you come to the world? (Patton believed in reincarnation of human soul.)