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Sgt. 1st Class Jon A. Cox chats with some of the more than 150 World War II veterans who attended a USO night hosted by the U.S. Army Field Support Battalion in Dudelange, Luxembourg, on Thursday. The event, held in an area converted into a 1940s-era canteen complete with Hershey bars and an Andrews Sisters-style trio, was part of the observance of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Cox is assigned to the Field Support Brigade-Europe.
Sgt. 1st Class Jon A. Cox chats with some of the more than 150 World War II veterans who attended a USO night hosted by the U.S. Army Field Support Battalion in Dudelange, Luxembourg, on Thursday. The event, held in an area converted into a 1940s-era canteen complete with Hershey bars and an Andrews Sisters-style trio, was part of the observance of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Cox is assigned to the Field Support Brigade-Europe. (C.W. Fick Jr. / U.S. Army)
Sgt. 1st Class Jon A. Cox chats with some of the more than 150 World War II veterans who attended a USO night hosted by the U.S. Army Field Support Battalion in Dudelange, Luxembourg, on Thursday. The event, held in an area converted into a 1940s-era canteen complete with Hershey bars and an Andrews Sisters-style trio, was part of the observance of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Cox is assigned to the Field Support Brigade-Europe.
Sgt. 1st Class Jon A. Cox chats with some of the more than 150 World War II veterans who attended a USO night hosted by the U.S. Army Field Support Battalion in Dudelange, Luxembourg, on Thursday. The event, held in an area converted into a 1940s-era canteen complete with Hershey bars and an Andrews Sisters-style trio, was part of the observance of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. Cox is assigned to the Field Support Brigade-Europe. (C.W. Fick Jr. / U.S. Army)
Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly A. Thompson chats with Kate Noland, one of more than 150 Battle of the Bulge veterans who attended a USO night Thursday hosted by the U.S. Army Field Support Battalion in Dudelange, Luxembourg. Nolan was a nurse during World War II. Thompson is an operations noncommissioned officer with the battalion.
Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly A. Thompson chats with Kate Noland, one of more than 150 Battle of the Bulge veterans who attended a USO night Thursday hosted by the U.S. Army Field Support Battalion in Dudelange, Luxembourg. Nolan was a nurse during World War II. Thompson is an operations noncommissioned officer with the battalion. (C.W. Fick Jr. / U.S. Army)

BASTOGNE, Belgium — Whether it is on the beaches of Normandy or the streets of Bastogne, American World War II veterans get the royal treatment whenever they attend a remembrance ceremony at an old battleground.

Such was the case this past week for many of the veterans who traveled to Belgium and Luxembourg to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

On Saturday in Belgium, even with the country’s sovereign, Albert II, present, the veterans drew the king’s share of the attention.

“The reception has been incredible,” said Carl Dalke, who served with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.

Then he leaned forward and quietly added: “I feel like a cross between Dwight Eisenhower and Audie Murphy.”

While commemorative ceremonies will continue well into next month, the major events marking the monthlong battle are occurring this weekend in Bastogne and nearby villages, such as Noville. Organizers estimate that at least a couple of hundred U.S. veterans of the battle traveled to Europe to take part.

Unlike in Normandy, France, this past summer, the events honoring the successes and sacrifices of the Allies were relatively low-key affairs. Sure, the king was in attendance, but every event had a home-spun charm to it.

“It’s a lot nicer than last year,” said Senior Airman Ben Secrest, who is assigned to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “There are more people here and they brought the veterans back.”

The pace of the scheduled events suited the World War II veterans just fine, given they are either in their late 70s or 80s. There was a parade in the morning followed by two wreath-laying ceremonies. In the evening, a sound-and-light show, designed to simulate a nighttime air attack, was staged.

A parachute drop and a vintage vehicle parade are on tap for Sunday.

The Battle of the Bulge was a key turning point in the war. The Dec. 16 dawn attack by the German army caught the Allies by surprise, but Eisenhower, commander of the Allied forces, was able to move enough men and vehicles into the fight to limit the advance and to eventually reverse it.

Like the French this summer, the Belgians — young and old — turned out in large numbers to greet their liberators.

“For us, it is a great day,” said 81-year-old Robert Lemaire, a Belgian army veteran.

“The way the people feel toward us, it’s out of this world,” said Dwight Rist, 85, a U.S. veteran. “You wouldn’t see anything like this in the United States.”

Rist was referring in particular to the outpouring of affection from young Belgians, many of who sought autographs and the opportunity to pose with the American vets. He said younger Americans, by and large, don’t know and don’t have much of an interest in what the veterans did.

The exception is today’s servicemembers.

“I’m into history. I know a little bit about” the battle, said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Douglas Vrtiska, who is assigned to Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Attending the ceremonies, Vrtiska said, permits him “to show my gratitude and respect, and to let them know we haven’t forgotten them.”

Army Spc. Isaac Pollack wishes his father had made it back for the ceremonies. Standing in Bastogne’s McAuliffe Square. Pollack talked at length about his father, Herman, who was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Pollack said he didn’t talk about the fighting very much, just about “the craziness during the down time.”

He never made it back to Europe, Pollack said of his father, who has since passed away. “He always wanted to,” Pollack said, “but he did not have the time.”

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