The 82ND Airborne John Steele Chapter Christmas Party will be held Dec. 11, 2016
The 82ND Airborne had hastily been sent into battle with out winter clothing and without being resupplied. Most had been on leave after Operation Market-Garden. My Dad recounted riding into battle on the back of a truck filled with gas cans for Patton’s tanks covered with blankets. They picked up ammunition from retreating troops on their way in.
When ever the weather turned cold and snowy here in Illinois, Dad would comment about how someone was suffering from the cold. As a kid, I knew he was remembering those he had lost during the war. He once told me that while heading to the front with a message, he had come across a man dead frozen over a machine gun, and he wished that he were him. He said “His troubles were over. Mine were still ahead of me”.
71 Years ago today, on Christmas Eve, in the Ardeenes Forest of Belgium, My Dad, Bob Dumke was serving with the 82Nd Airborne 505, 2Nd Battalion Head Quarters Company. Dad was a runner who went from Battalion Headquarters carrying messages to men, his friends, on the front line. He was some where near the River bridges at Trois – Ponts in Belgium.
Mom and Dad ran Dumke’s greenhouse and flower shop in Ottawa, Illinois. Dad would make grave blankets by hand, and deliver them to the cemetery (he made sure there were grave blankets on some young men from our community killed during Vietnam). Mom would make the most beautiful wreaths and roping. By Christmas, they were often tired and pretty worn out. We didn’t have much living in three rooms behind the greenhouse. However, there was much love and many visitors. Our door was always open to friends.
Our family celebrated together on Christmas Eve. Dad would fondly talk about his Mother Emma, a Swedish immigrant to the USA. How, when he was a kid they would decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve with candles. How beautiful it would be. He had a deep love for his Mother, who was gentle and kind. She had passed away when he was just 16 from Tuberculosis.
We put up our tree on Christmas Eve. Our tree had the big multi color bulbs. As we celebrated, Dad would get silent. You could tell, his thoughts would be some place else. He would pull me up on his lap and whisper in my ear. His big rough hands would pat my legs, were full of love. He would tell me how, during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, he along with Battalion Headquarters would be moving forward. They had to move a family out into the cold and snow on Christmas Eve. There was a Mother, Father, and two small children. 82ND Battalion Headquarters would be their home. The home would be near the front line of battle soon. It would not be safe. They had to leave their home with only what they could carry on Christmas Eve, out into the snow and bitter cold. Dad’s voice would crack, with a lump in his throat. His eyes would well up, and he could hardly get the words out. Tears would stream down his face. I can still feel his pain. Every Christmas Eve, for as long as I can remember, he mourned for that family who was displaced by war on Christmas Eve during the Battle of the Bulge in the deep cold Ardennes winter.
As we rush to finish our tasks and join our Christmas celebrations may we remember our soldiers who are away from home, some in harms way
In my Father’s memory I ask that you show kindness to someone else. Pay the kindness forward.
Please join me and pray that there be peace and love on earth and in all our hearts.
Katie Dumke Troccoli, a Paratrooper’s Daughter