Why am I a Soldier?

Blackfive links to the story of a a recent reunion between a Soldier and a Holocaust survivor, 60+ years after the fact. The San Diego Union-Tribune tells of the reunion between survivor Lou Dunst and his liberator Staff Sergeant Bob Persinger:

They had never met before yesterday, but their lives have been intertwined for more than 60 years. On May 6, 1945, lifelong bonds were forged between a Holocaust survivor and a tank commander – without either man’s knowledge. “I never saw him,” Persinger said. “I was delirious,” Dunst said. “I didn’t know what was happening.” That morning, in fact, Dunst was literally at death’s door. A 19-year-old Ukrainian Jew in a Nazi concentration camp in Austria, he had crawled onto a pile of corpses outside the crematorium to perish. But that afternoon, Staff Sgt. Persinger drove his tank “Lucky Lady” through the camp’s gates, liberating Dunst and the rest of Ebensee’s 18,000 prisoners.

This is Persinger’s recollection of the liberation:

Prisoners were covered in sores. Bodies were stacked – “like cordwood,” Persinger recalls – around the camp. The “kitchen” had no food, the “hospital” no medicine. Approaching the camp, the “Lucky Lady’s” crew was assaulted by the stench of death. Leaving the camp, the GIs removed their boots and burned them.

A few days ago, Dunst’s family and friends hosted a party for his 80th birthday in San Diego. Without Dunst’s knowledge, Persinger had been invited. One of Dunst’s friends told the story of the liberation and said, “The fact that Lou is here today, alive and well, celebrating his 80th birthday, is nothing short of a miracle.” He then introduced the surprise guest.

A gasp rose from the crowd as the silver-haired Persinger, now 82, walked to the stage and fell into Dunst’s arms. “Thank you for saving our lives,” Dunst said between sobs. “God bless you!”

Why am I a Soldier? Somebody’s got to do it. The world needs people who do what Bob Persinger and the other members of his crew did on that day in May, 1945. That’s why I’m a Soldier.

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