The group crunched through the fallen leaves, working out plans to remember the fallen soldiers buried around them, German and Italian prisoners of war who died on foreign soil nearly 70 years ago.
For present-day commanders from these same nations stationed here locally, this remembrance on Nov. 18 is a solemn duty.
“People that doesn’t have pasts won’t have futures,” said Colonel Antonio Lotito, an Italian Liaison Officer stationed at the Redstone Arsenal. He said that it’s important to him to look at these soldiers and remember what they soldiers have done for later generations. “They were fighting together for probably what they thought was a better world, regardless their ending, but the nation asked them to do something, and this is the essence of being a soldier again,” he said.
The prisoners of war who were stationed at McClellan from 1943 until 1946 worked in the officers’ club and in the community, and were responsible for a number of projects in the area, including historic murals in McClellan facilities and a POW newspaper put out by prisoners who went on to lead large newspapers once returned to Europe.
Lotito said the joint ceremony is important because it shows how the countries have grown—“ the possibility that we can have free word between countries which were enemies in the past,” he said. “It’s a very good thing for us to stay here and do this together.”
“If we go back to the time, we have also to appreciate what the Americans did for us,” said Lotito. “Even if we were imprisoned, but their conditions were for sure better than any other place during the Second World War.”
For Lt. Col. Stefan Deppe, a commander of the German Patriot Office boron after World War II, it was normal for the nations to be brothers in arms. “Still, we have conflicts all over the world where we together fight for the freedom of the world, and so it’s a must to show your shoulder-to-shoulder approach where you support each other and honor each other,” he said.
The ceremony is scheduled each year to coincide with the German national day of remembrance that falls each year on the third Sunday of November and which aligns closely with the Italian holiday to honor the military, which falls earlier in the month.
The Fort McClellan POW Association, led by Rita Wells, Joan McKinney and Klaus Duncan, have organized the ceremony since McClellan closed.
Duncan said the Anniston Army Depot takes care of the upkeep at the cemetery, and all funding for the event comes through donations.
“It’s a good sign, it’s a legacy for the past,” Lotito said, “for us to [remember] our essence to be soldier, to offer your life for the good of your country.”