A story of bravery and honor, originally told by a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge
The snowflakes pelted his helmet, a tattoo of pitter-patter echoing in his ears. His breath came in short bursts, white puffs. His hands involuntarily tightened around his rifle as shrapnel hit a nearby tree, the air so cold that it exploded. He slouched deeper into the foxhole, his eight comrades huddling for what warmth they could share. None of them had eaten in four days, and there was no end in sight.
It was Dec. 20, 1944. This was the Battle of the Bulge.
Awhile ago, one of them had found a single hen’s egg in an abandoned barn during a mission. Instead of eating it, he brought it back to his fellow soldiers. They argued over how to best share the egg between the nine of them.
They could choose straws, and the lucky winner would be free from that twisting ache for a few beautiful moments. Or maybe they could share it between three of the weakest men, to give them the strength to continue. Can we split an egg nine ways?, they wondered, a question that would have seemed silly to them before the war, before this frozen hell.
They talked about the holiday hams their moms were making, dreamed about the pies that their sweethearts were baking, salivated over the mounds and mounds of food they would eat when they got outta here…if they got out alive.
In the end, the egg remained untouched. It nestled in straw in a dead soldier’s spare helmet, the grim trophy awarded to the last one standing. It was a pact between brothers in arms. No one would touch the egg until there was no one else to share it with.
Historians would later say that it was the coldest winter on record. One veteran in U.S Army 101st Airborne Easy Company would sometimes wake from dreams of it, his bones aching with the memory of the cold.
According to the United States Department of the Army, some 108,347 casualties, including 19,246 killed, 62,489 wounded and 26,612 captured and missing. The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II.
It’s stories like these that remind us what Veteran’s Day is…it isn’t a day off, or a free meal from our local diner. It’s a time to reflect, to honor and to remember the sacrifices of missed holidays, absent families, and the lives cut short. This is the cost of freedom. Don’t forget them.
Oh, and no one ate the egg…because somehow, all nine soldiers survived to tell the tale of their sacrifice.
The 52nd Fighter Wing Honor Guard posts the colors during a Veterans Day ceremony in Luxembourg Nov. 11, 2011.
There are several opportunities to pay your respects this Veterans Day:
The Luxembourg American Cemetery, in Luxembourg City, is hosting a Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11, 2013 at 11 a.m.
The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Hombourg, Belguim is conducting a Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11, at 1:30 p.m.