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NEWS | Nov. 22, 2016

76th Division (OR) celebrates German Day of Remembrance

By Maj. Michael Garcia 76th U.S. Army Reserve Operational Response Command

FORT DOUGLAS, Utah – While most people celebrate Veteran’s Day weekend with families and friends, more than a hundred people came to Fort Douglas Military Cemetery November 13 to honor the 41 German prisoners of war (POW) who are buried here from both World Wars I and II. 

The German Day of Remembrance has been celebrated every year at Fort Douglas since 1977.

The event began with the presentation of colors by the Air Force ROTC Color Guard, University of Utah, followed with the German and American national anthems.

“My friends as we observe today those who served and sacrificed the military service, I express my gratitude to them, and reaffirm my commitment to try to live consistently with the principles they fought so hard to defend,” said James Burton, Honorary Consul for the Federal Republic of Germany.

76th Division Operational Response Chief of Staff, Col. Doug Cherry, a Wiesbaden Germany born shares significant history about the German immigrants who came and helped shape the state of Utah.

He talked about the first group of pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and the German-American architects who designed the state capital building and the Historic Governor’s Mansion.

Though these are all important, he said he remembers why we are here today.  “Today I remember not only the 41 brave German Soldiers and Sailors laid to rest here from World Wars I and II but all those uniformed personnel and civilians who have made the ultimate sacrifice in armed conflict or were victims of violent oppression around the world.  I remember their sacrifice.” 

Assistant Adjutant General, Utah Army National Guard, Brig. Gen. Dallen Atack said, “while we’re celebrating this day of remembrance, this day of peace, I must remain cognizant that we are still a nation at war.  Some call it contingency operations, but make no mistake about it; we have service members today that are in harm’s way.”

According to Burton, Volkstrauertag has been German’s National Day of Remembrance since 1948.

This event is held annually two Sundays before the first Advent all throughout the world to commemorate all who have died in war and for victims who died due to violence or oppressive governments.
Atack added, “I hope that as we remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice here in this cemetery, that it will help us strengthen our resolve to find solutions to current and future conflicts. I pray for and look forward the day that we’re again at peace.”

At the end of the Fort Douglas ceremony, Burton, Atack and Cherry laid a ceremonial wreath at the foot of the monument that honors the fallen German Soldiers and Sailors.  This monument is a mass grave where 21 of the 41 German POWs are buried, located at the southwest corner of the Fort Douglas Cemetery.