Milford Senior Center veterans celebration stirs memories

To the Editor:

This year Veterans Day was quite memorable for me.

This past spring, I had made a stopover in Belgium at the little town of La Roche en Ardennes not far from Bastogne, where bloody battles took place in the Battle of the Bulge during the liberation of Europe.

While strolling through the narrow streets of this lovely town crowned by a medieval castle, I discovered a very well kept American tank on display in their plaza as well as a couple of commemorative plaques honoring the valiant troops which fought through during the very harsh winter of 1944-1945. I was moved and took pictures of it.

So, when I read that Milford’s Senior Center Veterans Day Celebration would have Robert Swirsky, a Veteran of WW II, as guest speaker, I decided to attend. I asked Amanda Berry, program director, to please give me a couple of minutes at the end of the program so I could thank the veterans for their liberation.

Mr. Swirsky is a lovely 95 year old gentleman whose sharp and witty mind charmed the audience. He told us of passing through Normandy, then continuing just outside Paris and east through Belgium and Germany.

As he spoke, I looked at my pictures and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that one of the commemorative plaques I photographed immortalized the 2nd and 3rd U.S. Armored Divisions, the same as what was written on Mr. Swirsky’s uniform!

I couldn’t wait to grab the microphone to thank him and all the veterans and tell him that, back in 1944, I was a 14 year old among the crowd who waved at him when the troops rolled in their tanks outside Paris. I told him I had a picture  of a tank on display in Belgium, honoring his battalion. Of course, I gave the photo to him, with a big kiss.

After the program, we spoke more and I found out that, in 1951, he was in Darmstadt, Germany where I was at the same time studying German and working for the U.S. Quartermaster, and where I met my future husband. He then raised his family in Stratford, CT, on a street off Broadbridge Avenue while I was raising mine on a street also off Broadbridge Avenue. All of our children went to Stratford High School.

Are the “coincidences” of life meant to be?

Thank you, Mr. Swirsky for addressing us at the Senior Center, it gave me a chance to finally thank you personally for your dedication.

Hedwige Kuepper