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Author: TriSec    Date: 12/31/2019 11:00:29

Good Morning.

It's the last day of 2019. As it's been pointed out several places on the interwebs, tomorrow marks the first day of January, 2020, and the decade. One can hope the next ten years combined will be better than the last 365 days past, but I digress.

The veteran's front is a quiet place at this time of year. But 75 years ago it was not. On this date in December 1944, the Battle of the Bulge was still in full swing in the Ardennes Forest. It was Germany's last great act before its final collapse.

Many soldiers did not survive the battle; and like all confused conflicts, many fell and were never identefied, or buried in place and left to their rest.

This past Sunday, a relic of a fallen soldier in that battle finally made it back home. Unfortunately, from the story it seems that there were no relatives or descendants left to receive a set of dog tags found on the battlefield.

BELOIT Pfc. Roger W. Taylor left his family's farm in the Beloit area 75 years ago for deployment to Europe during World War II.

He never came home.

But the dog tags he wore during his 22 months of Army service finally finished their journey back to his home town.

At an emotional ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Beloit Historical Society, Col. Matthew Woodruff of the Ohio Adjutant General's office presented the dog tags to Leland VanCamp, the historical society's president.

"It's an honor to be able to give this to your historical society to have one more thing and one piece of Beloit history that you can continue to preserve with the rest of the artifacts that you guys have been able to maintain," said Woodruff to applause.

"It is quite an honor for us to receive this," said VanCamp, 90, who knew Taylor's parents. "We will preserve it with the all of the integrity and might that we have."

Roughly 60 attended, including Virginia Israel Bandy, now 94, who was engaged to Taylor when he visited Beloit while on leave in July 1944 before he was sent to England.

But then she received the heartbreaking news around Jan. 6, 1945 that Taylor, a replacement infantry soldier, had gone missing near Lutrebois, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. Then her worst fears were realized when his body was discovered in February 1945. He had been killed by enemy shrapnel.

Taylor later was buried in a military cemetery in Luxembourg.

In an area of France, near the border with Belgium, a French resident unearthed the dog tags of Taylor and several other American soldiers. It was unclear how they ended up there. Word of this got to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, which received the dog tags, contacted the Beloit Historical Society earlier this year.

Taylor was an only child. His parents are deceased, so he had no known family members to receive the dog tags.

Moving on, 2020 also means the start of another decade at war. While we rarely note it now here at AAV, soldiers are still dying overseas - and the Pentagon is predicting an uptick in casualties in the new year.

The U.S. military’s combat casualties in Afghanistan were the highest in five years, and Army service members bore the brunt of those losses.

The number of U.S. casualties, to say nothing of Afghan civilians killed by collateral damage from all sides, trends upwards as the war heads into a new decade.

Soldiers accounted for 14 of the Defense Department’s 17 hostile deaths in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures as of Dec. 23. The other three were Marines. Of the more than 180 service members wounded in Afghanistan this year, 173 were soldiers.

In 2018, there were 13 hostile deaths in Afghanistan, 12 of whom were soldiers, according to the Pentagon data-set. In 2017, there were 11 hostile deaths, all of whom were soldiers. And in 2016, there were nine hostile deaths, all of whom were again soldiers. In 2015, there were 10 hostile deaths — two were soldiers and the rest were airmen.

Of the soldiers killed in action this year, one was an Army Ranger, eight were Green Berets, two were EOD techs supporting Green Berets and three were paratroopers.

One paratrooper was killed by an IED blast near Bagram Air Base, while the other two were killed in what was reported as an insider attack at the time.

The casualties are the highest since the mission to Afghanistan scaled down in 2015 and changed names from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

The previous highest annual death toll for U.S. troops since the new mission began was reached last year. In 2014, roughly 40 U.S. troops were killed.

So - 2019 will tick it's last tock in a few hours. This will be the first New Year in quite some time that I'm not actually planning on making it to the event. Trolleys never stop rolling, and we're back at it early tomorrow morning.

Happy New Year out there - make the most of your opportunities!


2 comments (Latest Comment: 12/31/2019 15:24:47 by Will in Chicago)
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