DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Listening, remembering, giving thanks

HUDDLING IN THE rental car, I heard something outside.

This was a recent Sunday morning, after my husband, Phil, and I traveled from Port Angeles to central Europe.

Phil did copious research about a particular place in Luxembourg, and now here we were, beside a grove of trees near the town of Eschdorf.

For this column, I’m venturing a few thousand miles from the Peninsula to a place where many of our parents and grandparents served. This being November, the month of Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of this place.

It was a chilly, windy fall Sunday, and I looked out at trees clothed in red and gold.

We were near where my father-in-law, Donovan Lusk, spent Christmas morning, 1944. It was a Sunday like this, only instead of soft earth on the forest floor, Don walked through and dug foxholes in a frigid layer of snow.

That Christmas Day, 21-year-old Don wrote a letter to his bride, Anne. He was a combat infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge, a turning point in World War II. He came through this neck of the woods after riding an Army transport truck and then marching across rural France and Luxembourg.

Despite the ferocity of the Nazi army, despite their bouncing Betty mines, tanks and “Screaming Mimi” rocket artillery, Don survived. He made it back home to Houghton, Mich., where he went to college on the GI Bill and started a family, the family that includes my beloved Phil.

Phil and I have the scores upon scores of letters Don wrote to Anne while he was serving in Europe.

In them, he does not complain about the snow, the bombs, the mines, the death all around him.

He writes instead about his hopes for peace; for a future with Anne, whom he addresses over and over as “My Dearest Darling.”

I believe, by the way, that the spouses of those who serve in the military are veterans, too.

Don and Anne are gone now. Reading the letters, we are inspired to learn, and hopefully write, more about how sending those missives helped them make it through the war.

This fall, we walked beside the forests and pastures where the battles took place.

We saw a little church in Eschdorf where the bells probably stayed silent on Christmas Day so as not to make the chapel a target.

The Battle of the Bulge is said to be the bloodiest of the Second World War. Some 19,000 American soldiers lost their lives.

At the American Cemetery in Luxembourg, the white crosses and Stars of David stretch out in long lines, like paths into the past.

There and beside the woods near Eschdorf, I gave thanks for them all. Don Lusk and his fellow soldiers faced down fear, miles of frozen country and the daily possibility of a violent end. He lived through something words fail to describe.

So after listening to that sound winding through the trees, I opened the car door. I turned my body toward the woods, toward the town beyond.

The sound was bells ringing: the bells of the church a mile or so away, ringing out on a Sunday.

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Angeles.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Nov. 15.

Reach her at Creodepaz@yahoo.com.

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: Sasquatch Days are here

IT’S TIME ONCE again for the third annual Sasquatch Days in Forks… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The story of ‘Lightning Boldt’

“LIGHTNING BOLDT,” IS a biography of Judge George H. Boldt by John… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The best Mother’s Day present

MOTHER’S DAY IS coming up. I had a great mother. I know… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The best Arbor Day ever

HOW WAS YOUR Arbor Day? Traditionally celebrated on the last Friday in… Continue reading

OUR VIEW: New York Times syndication service to add in-depth reporting

While we take great pride in being your source for local news… Continue reading

Pat Neal, left, and former Peninsula Daily News editor and publisher John Brewer. (Pat Neal)
PAT NEAL: Free speech isn’t free

There were giants in the land. We lost one last week. John… Continue reading

The Peninsula Daily News office building, at 305 W. First St. in Port Angeles, will soon be on the commercial real estate market. But staff will relocate to another Port Angeles building in the coming months.
OUR VIEW: We’re moving, but we will remain in community

THIS OLD BUILDING, steeped in history, whispers stories of bygone days. Within… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The first salmon

THE BLOOMING OF the salmonberries marks a change in the season. In… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Spill some salmon here

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. The bad news was… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The daylight digs

THE END OF steelhead fishing season was the day my universe came… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Twilight forever and ever

THERE’S A DISTURBING trend in modern journalism for reporters to use fleeting… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A question of flowers

THANK YOU FOR reading this. Sometimes I think that if you didn’t… Continue reading