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

U.S. Civil Air Patrol, Spangdahlem Cadet Squadron members, back, and U.S. Marine Corp members attached to the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg, front, pose on a bridge and in front of a plaque for U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa, at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. The cadets and Marines served as a honor guard detail for a ceremony dedicating the bridge to Pfc. Festa earlier that day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

Casey Mace, U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg deputy chief of mission, left, gives a speech during a bridge-dedication ceremony at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. Mace represented the U.S. in the dedication ceremony and praised the ongoing tribute Luxembourg pays American soldiers for their sacrifice during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

Jim Festa, oldest son of U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa, attends a ceremony naming a bridge after his father at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. Vincent Festa was the first U.S. soldier killed when U.S. forces crossed the Sauer River during the liberation of Luxembourg in January 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

Jim Festa, oldest son of U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa, speaks during a ceremony naming the Moestroff bridge after his father, at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. Jim Festa was three years old when his father, Vincent Festa, was killed in action liberating Luxembourg during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

Members of the Festa family lay a wreath during a ceremony dedicating the Moestroff bridge to U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. Festa was killed in action on January 20, 1945 during an operation to cross the Sauer River, the river under the Moestroff bridge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

U.S. Civil Air Patrol, Spangdahlem Cadet Squadron members, perform honor guard detail during a bridge-dedication ceremony at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. The CAP members performed alongside U.S. Marines assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

A member of the Luxembourg Army color guard stands next to an American flag-covered memorial plaque at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. The plaque is a memorial to U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa, who was killed in action January 20, 1945, during the liberation of Luxembourg during World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

Reenactors wear World War II-era U.S. Army uniforms at a ceremony dedicating the Moestroff bridge to U.S. Army Pfc. Vincent Festa at Moestroff, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. The reenactors were from the Netherlands and brought World War II military vehicles with them to the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

Reenactors wear World War II-era U.S. Army uniforms during a display at Bettendorf, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. The reenactors were part of a larger event that involved building a pontoon bridge across the Sauer River as American soldiers did in January 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

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Reenactors build a pontoon bridge over the Sauer River at Bettendorf, Luxembourg, January 18, 2020. The reenactors wore World War II-era uniforms and built the bridge the same way U.S. Army soldiers did to cross the Sauer River in January 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyle Cope)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

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.”