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U.S. servicemembers in Belgium are in line for an anniversary present next week.

All nonessential personnel will have the day off July 21 to join Belgians in celebrating the 175th anniversary of their country’s founding, said Marie-Lise Baneton, spokeswoman for the 80th Area Support Group. That free pass applies to many of the soldiers, airmen and civilians who support or work directly for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium, or for those assigned to NATO in Brussels.

Administration and finance offices will be closed at SHAPE headquarters and Chièvres Air Base, along with the supermarket at SHAPE. The commissary, exchange, Andrews Federal Credit Union and bowling alley at Chièvres, however, will be open, Baneton said.

To the benefit of Americans living in a land renowned for its chocolates and beer, an array of festivities is planned for the Belgium national holiday — and for the balance of the year.

Exhibits examining the country’s history and culture include “Memory of Congo.” The exhibit encompasses Brussels’ controversial past as a colonial power, and it runs through Oct. 9 at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, an eastern suburb.

There is also an exhibit titled “Art Nouveau and Design” at the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels. It runs through the end of the year.

In Brussels, on the day before the anniversary, city organizers hope to set a world record for the largest marching band, one of many events planned.

On July 21, activities are slated throughout the day near the Parc Royal and Place Rogier, from a military parade to an evening fireworks display.

For more 175th anniversary information, go to


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