On behalf of the 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division I extend greetings to our Belgian friends. I feel honored to have been invited to participate in this ceremony.
Today, we would not be here, recognizing the great effort that the American Army underwent, if we were not successful in driving the German Army out of this beautiful country and back to Germany and to total defeat.
You have the misfortune to be located on the borders of Germany and France. As you will always remember, the German Army went through and occupied Belgium in 1940. The Americans liberated your nation in 1944 and before the year was out, the German Army once again occupied this area. And again the American Army had to drive them out and ultimately totally defeat the Third Reich.
The American and German Armies caused tremendous damage, death and destruction in Belgium. And for this, I have been saddened. But this was the only way that the Americans could free Belgium and the rest of Europe. Liberate you so that you would not be under the heavy hand of a German dictatorship. Free you so that you could have your own government and way of life.
After the hostilities ceased, the American people sent aid to our allies and our former enemies, too. We helped rebuild Europe. However money does not bring the dead back nor does it heal the severely wounded. War has a terrible price.
When I was eighteen years old I was drafted into the United States Army. I was then trained as a Medic. One of those duties was to care for the wounded. I was 19 years old when I crossed the Atlantic in October 1994 on the Queen Mary. This was the average age of the American Infantry, between 18 and 20 years old. I was one of 13,000 American troops on that vessel. Prime Minister Winston Churchill made that voyage with us. Of course his accommodations were better than mine. The first two weeks of combat I spent in Habirken, Germany, just north of the Saar, and the next two weeks here in Belgium. The last time I was here the weather was bitter cold and when we were not on the attack we slept in frozen foxholes in the ground. The average infantryman was in combat about two weeks before he was wounded, captured, or killed. I was in combat about a month total. I haven’t been back to Belgium since. I do hope that my accommodations are better this time. (I’m sure they will be.)
On January 4th, 1945, in the vicinity of Marvie, the Second Platoon of Company D, which I was the medic, and Company C went too far into the German lines. We engaged in fierce combat for about two or three hours. We left about a hundred German soldiers dead, frozen in the snow. We lost about an equal number of dead, wounded, or captured. Our Captain left me behind to care for 20 wounded. Two hours later as evening was approaching I surrendered the wounded and myself. I was then held prisoner, under terrible conditions. The U. S. Army reported me as missing in action. For three months, my folks did not know if I was alive or dead. The day before I was liberated by the American 7th Division, my folks were informed that I was a prisoner. A week later they were told that I was again in U.S. Army control.
As a free people, we know that freedom has a price. It does not come cheaply. We have to pay taxes to maintain our Government. We have to respect each other’s rights to property and privacy, and the freedom of movement to come and go as one pleases. To engage in the occupation of ones choice, and the freedom to express ones political opinions.
Yes, freedom has its benefits and it has its price. We must be forever vigilant. We must not get too complacent or we will lose our freedom. You well know, history can repeat itself. Be careful that it does not.
Michael Linquata Combat Medic Company D
134th Regiment 35th Infantry Division 3rd U.S. Army
Download PDF: Linquata Belgium Speech 2002