BLUE BELL, Pa. - November 11, Veterans Day, the day the United States humbly honors those who have served and sacrificed for the country.
FOX 29 is sharing inspiring stories of vets, including a 97-year-old World War II veteran from Montgomery County. Art Breyer was captured by Germans during the infamous Battle of the Bulge. His memories of the war in Europe are crystal clear, including his first combat. He thought he was just on patrol.
"I was behind the tree and, all of a sudden, a German machine gun opened up. And, the bullets hit the tree right in front of me. It was a very big tree," Breyer described. "The leader of our party – I think he was a lieutenant. He already knew what he needed to know. He already knew there was a machine gun there. So, he withdrew us back to where we were. And, they called in the artillery and they knocked out both of the machine gun nests."
Mr. Breyer fought through the fall and winter of 1944, knee-deep in the Hurtgen Forest, the last big German offensive of the war. His unit was overwhelmed. He was captured.
"Come out! Drop your hands! Or, I’m gonna set this haystack on fire. And, when I got down, of course, he gave me a kick in the rear that I felt for quite a while. And, then he searched me and took all my chocolate bars. Which were 20. 20 chocolate bars," Breyer explained.
He was shuttled around a lot as a prisoner, treated well by some German troops, but worked extensively by others and starved to the point where he was 105 pounds. Near war’s end, he was freed by Russian troops and sent to a rehabilitation camp in France. Two breakfasts, two lunches – he ate everything in sight.
"This went on for six weeks. And, in six weeks, I started picking up a lot of weight. But, it was not good weight, because I didn’t exercise. I didn’t do anything but eat!" Breyer said.
Discharged on Christmas Eve, Mr. Breyer went on to marry and become a chemistry professor, after living through the worst war has to offer.
Want to learn, truly learn? Maybe hear a story that’ll make the hair stand up on the neck? Talk to veterans. Talk to them every day. There’s not enough gratitude in the world to pay them back.