All veterans have a story to tell, and we should listen

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

Veterans Day next Moonday is an official United States holiday that honors those who have served in the armed services. It is a federal holiday that is observed on Nov. 11 and coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day.

Millions of American men and women have served their country throughout its history. They are real people, each and every one of them. We tend to group these people into certain wars or service units, like the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Each is a real individual with real lives and families. Let me tell you about just one of our veterans.

Al Beinemann, who recently passed away, was a Sheboygan County resident who served during World War II. He was drafted while still a senior at Sheboygan’s Central High School. After basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina, he was sent to Communication School and graduated as a Telephone Wireman/Rifleman.

Once the war was over he returned home, joined the Sheboygan VFW Post 9156, got involved in the community and worked at the Wisconsin Public Service for over 40 years. In his later years, as a number of veterans have done, he decided to write about his service experiences and was good enough to provide me with a signed copy of his book. In his memory, and to all who have served, here are a few items he wrote about.

Page 8: “As we approached the Troi-Point Bridge, an American Engineering unit was preparing to blow up the bridge. They told us that if we didn’t hurry, we would have to swim across. We were dead tired but it didn’t take us long to cross. We asked them what was going on and all they knew was that the Germans had launched a massive attack through the Ardennes Forest and were now preparing to attack Stavelot”.

Page 11 & 12: “The 83rd Division was ready to attack by January 9, 1945, I received my Baptism of Fire when we smashed from Ottre Belgium into the northern flank of the Nazi held salient.

We fought relentlessly through the deep dark snowy Ardennes Forest for ten days and nights, making a five mile penetration into the Bulge.

We drove back German soldiers of the 9th “SS” Panzer Division and the 12th Volks Grenadier Division, in the worst winter weather seen in thirty years in the Ardennes Forest.

It was bitter cold, at times from zero to ten degrees below. We fought through blizzards and snow storms with visibility of only a few feet and drove the Germans from their strong defensive positions. At times the weather was a worse enemy than the Germans. We got very little sleep, because we had to keep moving or freeze to death.

We dug the enemy from their log and dirt covered foxholes, and captured over 400 prisoners, a Nazi supply dump, knocked out tanks and trucks with bazookas, and left the Ardennes Forest strewn with bodies of Hitler’s Nazi Supermen.

The job of the Grave Registration Units is to pick up the dead bodies and bury them. They picked up truck loads of both American and German soldiers, but many more of the dead were Nazis killed in combat fighting against the 83rd Infantry Thunderbolt Division. Bodies were frozen in grotesque positions and piled high on large trucks. It wasn’t a nice sight to see. I felt lucky again.”

Al Beinemann, at age 18 and 19, grew up quickly as do most during wartime. As what we call our “greatest generation”, he and others came back home. Each with their own experiences that would last a lifetime. So whatever the service period or engagement, individuals we call veterans deserved to be remembered - Veteran’s Day allows us to pay our respects to them all.

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