After some 24 years of events, the final meeting
of the VBOB group was held on 23 January 2016
at the Ft. Miley Medical Center in San Francisco.
Although unable to attend due to travel commitments,
Dame Bral provided an Audio Recording of her remarks
The text of the talk is reproduced below.
Dear Verterans of the Battle of the Ardennes.
My Heroes and Friends.
It is a great honor to address you today because you are very dear to me.
You do not consider yourselves to be worthy of that denomination; many among you have told me, time and again, that the real heroes did not return from that battle. They died in the trenches, in the winter cold, in the forests, during that final confrontation between you, the stronghold of the Allied Forces, in the hills surrounding that little Belgian town, which most of you had never heard of. But history decided differently. You fought the battle that broke Hitler's brazen plan to reach Antwerp and from there, conquer London. You were told to hold that front, till Patton's forces arrived. And you did, at the high price of risking your lives, and losing your friends, and living with the guilt. Why him, why not me? Yet you lived very productive lives, built families and careers. That takes courage and character.
But you also changed my life and the lives of all the generations born after you. When I was born, Belgium was occupied, for the second time, by the German army. The food was violently taken from our farmers. They had to give up grain and what little there was left of the potato supplies. Cattle, horses and tractors were driven away. Flanders fields lay barren. My mother had three children to feed, standing in long lines to receive a rationed portion of food. When Blanche discovered that she was pregnant with me, she cried for nine months. How would she feed another mouth? But you came to deliver her from that burden. Thanks to your brave contribution, German is not my mother tongue.
So I dare to call you my friends, because I have known you since 1992. For 24 years, I mourned with you when we lost another of our friends, through sickness or by age. My friends, because you saved my life, and how can I ever make up for this?
In terms of politics, you were instrumental in turning the tide of German domination in Europe. Once mortal enemies became trading partners in commerce. Diplomacy and dialog replaced mortal confrontation. Forces of darkness were turned into Light.
Yes, there is hope that the world is finally moving towards global peace. No, I am not naive. In many places of the world, people are still oppressed and battling for democratic participation in their country. Religion is still a source of confrontation and death, instead of a harbor of peace and brotherhood. The Enlightenment, initiated by the French philosophers Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau in the 1700s, has not reached the Middle East and other regions in the world.
But it is not forbidden to hope. And dreams become reality, if enough people want to achieve it.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, applauded the nuclear peace agreements between Iran and the United States, signed in Vienna a week ago. The Big Satan for 30 years is now a Partner. Sanctions are lifted. The lives of 29 million people will improve. Commerce agreements are already in negotiation. One might see that History is repeating itself, but now on a global scale. So this is the perfect time to celebrate this final Commemoration of your worthy contributions, for which we love you, for which we honor you and your families, gathered here for the last time in your beautiful Veterans Auditorium.
So we will never forget.
To finish, let us not forget to thank your indefatigable President, Ms. Doris Davis, who has never spared her personal costs nor any efforts to bring all of us together, year after year. Let us salute and applaud her. Thank you Doris!