Honoring the Memories and Sacrifices

St. Louis Gateway Chapter  •  Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge WWII  •  Saint Louis, Missouri

Memories of the Past - Hope for Future Generations

     by Millie Knize

As I glanced at the morning paper in January 1993 something caught my eye. It was an article about starting a St. Louis Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge of WWII. The article stated that the National Chapter of the VBOB was planning on having a reunion of all the VBOB here in St. Louis to commerate the 50th Anniversary of that famous battle. They wanted the veterans living in St. Louis and surrounding areas to host the event. (Additional information about the article and first meetings can be found in the Chronology Section).

Excitement and Ideas Shared
My husband, veteran Edward Knize and I attended the January 1993 meeting. Everyone signed in at the door and Kent Stephens opened the meeting. He explained the situation to everyone and I could feel the excitement and anticipation flowing through the room. What a great honor to have our city chosen for such an event. Little did we dream how fantastic it would really be or what it would take to make it so.

As Kent spoke, I looked about the room and counted the number of wives who had attended with their husbands. I think there were twelve or thirteen wives. I raised my hand and was recognized. After introducing myself and my husband, I asked if they had considered having a Ladies Auxiliary to help. Kent said no they hadn’t but he thought it was a good idea. I let it go at that.

Ladies Auxiliary First Meeting
Ed and I were anxious to attend the February meeting and apparently so were the others. That meeting was attended by a hundred or more vets. Word was getting around. Before the meeting Dick Cotter, one of the original veterans that Kent had contacted, walked up to me and said, ”Mrs. Knize, were you serious about starting a Ladies Auxiliary?” I replied, “Yes I was.”

Then Dick said, “There is a small room down the hall that you and the ladies can use if you like.” I said, “Gee, that’s great.” Dick then announced it to the ladies and twelve ladies responded and followed me down the hall. There was a long table in the room and we pulled chairs around it. I mentioned that the first thing we had to do was to elect officers. As one, they said “We already have a President, YOU.”

I was honored and excited. Dick’s wife, Vi Cotter was elected Vice-President and I can’t remember who the others were. We met several times at Grone’s Restaurant on Laclede Station Road. I would meet with the VBOB officers before the monthly meetings and relate it to the ladies at our meetings.

Planning the 50th Anniversary Reunion
Periodically Mr. Wm. Tayman, President of the National Chapter of the VBOB and Chairman of the 50th Anniversary Celebration, would come to St. Louis and hold a joint meeting of the St. Louis Chapter veterans and ladies to discuss what we were to do to prepare for the big event.

We sat around a large table at the downtown Regal Hotel and he formed committees to take care of various activities for the occasion. As the President of the Auxiliary, I was chosen to take care of giving out the packets of information for all visitors and to choose the centerpieces for the banquet tables.

Informational Packets and Centerpieces
The Ladies Auxiliary had grown to about 75 and they offered to stand behind the tables and give out the packets. Vi Cotter and I went to the wholesale flower village on LaSalle Street and after visiting several shops we decided on a low black vase filled with white azaleas. As an after-thought, I chose two red poppies in the center. Now we needed the flags of Belgium, Luxembourg and the United States which I found at Patrick’s Flags on Page Ave.

I sent Mr Tayman a description of what we had chosen and with it, I told him that the white azaleas depicted the snow of the battlefield and the red poppies the blood of the fallen soldier. With the description I wrote the following poem.

Field of Red
The poppies grow on the hills and fields,
    where once our soldiers bled;
Where once was snow and bitter cold,
    is now a sea of red;
On this ground they shed their blood
    red as the poppies waving;
The only hope in their hearts
    was of a world worth saving;
Did they shed their blood in vain?
    No! Let it not be so;
Let Freedom always reign
as long as poppies grow.

The poppy signifies the symbol of war and the renewal of life (World Book Inc.)

How proud I was when I opened the brochure at the 50th Anniversary event and saw the above poem on the back page for everyone to see. Prince Henri of Luxembourg and Prince Philippe of Belgium were there and I asked them to please sign my brochure. Immediately their ambassador stepped up and said, “No autographs, please.” I looked disappointed and said, “That was my poem I wanted signed.” Prince Henri took the brochure and signed it and handed it to Prince Philippe. I cherish it even today.

The centerpieces were to be given as door prizes. I had 180 labels and wrote numbers from one to ten on them. A numbered label was placed under each vase. The idea was for each table to start with one person and count to ten around the table. Then they were to look under the vase and whoever had that number took the centerpiece. But Mr Tayman got it all mixed up and had to call me to the stand to straighten it out. Everyone wanted a centerpiece. I still have mine.

We have come far since that day in December 1994. January 2007 marks our 14th year and we have accomplished much. I resigned the Ladies Auxiliary presidency after serving seven years. The Chapter is one of the largest chapters in the nation and I think one of the most active.

The Auxiliary now sits in with the veterans in order to keep in touch with what is going on and then have about an hour after to decide what we can do to help.

The Chapter, as I mentioned, has been very active. Our Educational Committee has four teams of three or four veterans and one or two ladies that have been visiting schools and various organizations telling it like it was in that historical time of our country and what it took to insure them the freedom and liberty we enjoy today. To date we have made close to four hundred presentations. I am proud to be an active member of one of those teams. When my husband passed away, I asked for a donation to the Educational teams in lieu of flowers. It was originally called the “Edward Knize Educational Fund.”

The Mortuary Committee is also one to be proud of. Our Chaplain, Glen Hillgartner, who opens and closes every meeting with one of his beautiful prayers, is notified of the passing of any member and our telephone chain notifies the veterans. Sometimes as many as 30 veterans pass by the casket of their buddy and salute, they stand at attention as the Chaplain cites what the deceased did during the war and ends with a prayer after which Taps is sounded as the veterans stand and salute in a final farewell.

The Chapter has donated flags to nursing homes, money to the USO and money to the Veterans Home and various other charities.

Over the years we have lost many of our members, ladies as well as veterans. We are all growing older, but our main goal is to instill in future generations the love of country and freedom that our generation held so dear.

When I speak to the students, I end by asking them to honor that red, white and blue banner that flies half mast over the National Cemeteries and covers a dead veterans casket, as it did my husband's. It stands for Freedom and Liberty that was bought by a very great price by these veterans and others like them.

Millie Knize