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Nearly 800 U.S. servicemembers and civilians have signed up for this weekend’s walk in Bastogne, Belgium, part of the annual commemoration of the Battle of the Bulge, according to organizers.

“We have more people than we had last year,” said Cis Spook, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, which is supporting the walk. “Every year, it seems to grow in importance.”

During the one-day observance, which shifts from year to year to keep it a weekend event, Bastogne becomes a magnet for young and old. This year’s event is held on Saturday, the anniversary of the start of the legendary battle.

At least one U.S. veteran of the campaign is expected to attend and possibly walk the perimeter course, said Marie-Lise Baneton, a USAG Benelux spokeswoman.

The Battle of the Bulge, the largest land battle in Army history, consisted of a series of engagements over several hundred miles from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945. The United States suffered 19,000 deaths, and more than 1 million combatants took part.

Bastogne became an enduring symbol of grit and courage because the U.S. Army held the city despite being surrounded by the Germans for several days. Since then, Belgians have gathered every December in tribute to the enormous sacrifices of U.S. and Allied forces.

Saturday’s commemoration will include a host of activities and sights, from wreath-laying ceremonies to the playing of World War II-era music to the walk itself. And, as always, the town will be packed with all sorts of re-enactors.

Organizers of the walk will allow people to sign up and pay the nominal registration fee the morning of the event. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. at the Bastogne sports hall and continues until 8, when the walk starts. Participants can choose between three distances: 6, 14 or 20 kilometers.

The memorial walk covers a different section of the Allied perimeter around Bastogne each year. This time the route will take walkers north of Bastogne to villages such as Foy and Noville. It’s an area that was defended by the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, recently immortalized in the television series “Band of Brothers.”

A group of Boy Scouts from Heidelberg, Germany, will have the honor of laying a wreath – one of three planned for the day – along the route.

For more details on the walk and the rest of the commemorative events, go to the Web site There is an English link on the main page.


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