WILTZ, Luxembourg (NNS) -- A Navy Honor Platoon and Color Guard from Naval Station Rota, Spain joined dozens of Wiltz, Luxembourg, citizens to commemorate the beginning of the Battle of the Ardennes, otherwise known as the Battle of the Bulge, with a pre-dawn torchlight vigil Dec. 16.
The night vigil stepped off at 5:30 a.m. with a procession that led to a wreath laying ceremony and speeches.
The ceremonies honoring the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge also brought Army Maj. Gen. Lesli Craig, the commanding general of the 28th Infantry Division, to bear witness to the events.
"I have had people come up to me with tears in their eyes, saying, 'I was eight years old during the fighting here. Your division kept my family alive. We'll never forget you,'" said Craig. "Realizing that it's not for me specifically but for the Soldiers of the 28th Infantry Division who were here 60 years ago, you can't help but be moved by it."
During a reception after the ceremony, the major general's band was played from a recording taken during a Thanksgiving visit in 2004. The 28th Division Band has a monument dedicated to them for their actions during the Battle of the Bulge.
"During the fighting here in December of '44, it got so desperate that they had to take the instruments away from the band, give them rifles and form a provisional infantry company to defend the command post. It was a very desperate fight, and the people here haven't forgotten," Craig said.
The feeling of American appreciation emanating from the Luxembourg locals manifested itself in cheers and tears. The pure emotion of it was something that some of those attending for the first time did not expect, including one Sailor from the Navy Honor Platoon.
"It's really touching to see your flag in another country being flown and hung right next to theirs," said Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Bristol McCloud, assigned to Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Unit Detachment Rota, Spain. "It lets you know we have close friends in many places."
McCloud learned quite a few things from his visit-things he will remember for the rest of his life.
"It's the feel of all the villages and towns we have been to," said McCloud of the many ceremonies in which his Navy platoon has participated. "It's a lot more than just a big war. It's a lot of small victories, but very important ones."
Despite the difference in pay grades and the viewpoint of service branches, the two-star general and the 2nd class petty officer had one thing in common.
"It is an honor to be here," they agreed.
For related news, visit the Naval Station Rota, Spain Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/rota.