Spangdahlem Civil Air Patrol honors fallen WWII veteran, remembers Sauer River crossing

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kyle Cope
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Civil Air Patrol, Spangdahlem Cadet Squadron members served as an honor guard detail for a ceremony naming the Moestroff Bridge after U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa, on January 18, 2020, in Moestroff, Luxembourg.

Pfc. Vincent was killed in action on January 20, 1945 and was the first U.S. soldier killed when U.S. forces crossed the Sauer River, the river that flows under the bridge now bearing his name, on January 20, 1945.

“This commemoration gives us the chance to honor individual Americans, because it was individual Americans that paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Casey Mace, U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg deputy chief of mission. “It is important and special for us to be able to use this time to remember Private Vincent Festa for the sacrifice he paid during a war that defined the course of history.”

Ceremonies like this one are great opportunities for members of the Spangdahlem Civil Air Patrol to honor the sacrifice of past generations and participate in a unique learning experience.

“Being stationed over here at Spangdahlem is a great opportunity to take part in World War II ceremonies,” said U.S. Civil Air Patrol Major Frank Schuler, Spangdahlem Cadet Squadron deputy commander and Luxembourg native. “You learn a lot out of books but if you stand on the battlefields and see the surroundings, feel the cold weather, see the environment, it is a different experience than just reading in a book.”

The people of Luxembourg appreciate members of the Civil Air Patrol participating in ceremonies such as this one.

“People over here also have great respect for what the cadets do and they are very proud to see young Americans represent their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who fought here about 75 years ago and still remember what happened here back in 1944-1945,” Schuler said.

For members of the Festa family, the ceremony has been an honor and something they greatly appreciate.

“It brings closure to something we have lived with for 75 years and it has brought a love and respect for the people of Luxembourg,” said Jim Festa, son of Pfc. Vincent Festa. “You get that overwhelming emotion, you build a love, you do not build a hatred for what happened, you build a love for the way people care. I really want to express my appreciation, my family’s appreciation, for the love that the people of Luxembourg show to the people that gave their lives.”

History is one of the reasons the people of Luxembourg have such appreciation for American soldiers in World War II.

“People here still remember the liberation of Luxembourg in 1944-1945 by U.S. troops because they gave them freedom back after five years of German occupation and terror,” Schuler said. “Generations like my grandparents and my parents still keep that remembrance high because they know that without U.S. liberation, their lives would have been totally different and not as good.”

U.S. forces were not the only ones who sacrificed in the liberation of Luxembourg.

“My grandfather and his brothers were forced to go with the German Army to fight in Russia as well as 25,000 other young men from Luxembourg,” Schuler said. “If they refused to go, the Germans shot them and put their families in concentration camps. So many young men went with the Germans to save their families.”

The struggles of the past are lessons to be remembered for current generations, such as the cadets participating in the event and that remembrance is something the Festa family appreciates.

“We need to make sure that the younger generation understands the sacrifice that was made,” said Bob Festa, son of Pfc. Vincent Festa. “Freedom comes at a cost. There is a price to be paid for it. They need to understand why it was paid and never forget the sacrifices done by that generation. It has been an unexpected honor that the people of Luxembourg would do this in memory of our dad and to know that they have taken care of him for the last 75 years and I have nothing but respect and admiration for the people of this country.”