By Ed Brock
It wasn't 85-year-old Jim Sellars's first time to return to the European battlefields where his comrades in arms and he sacrificed so much.
But memories were no less vivid, and the appreciation of the people he freed from Nazi oppression was no less touching.
"We just enjoyed going back over and meeting the people who were kids when we were there," Sellars said about the people of Luxembourg. "We had several big battles there and they wanted to thank us."
Last month Sellars and two other former members of the Army 159th Combat Engineers spent two weeks in the tiny country that lies between Germany, Belgium and France. They were there to be honored, but also to do honor to those who didn't make it home all those years ago.
"We went to cemeteries where some of our men are buried and laid wreaths on the graves," Sellars said.
It was 40 days after D-Day, June 6, 1944 that the 159th landed at Utah Beach Head. From there they fought their way across France until eventually Sellars and the other in Company C found themselves staying at Ansembourg Castle in Luxembourg.
"That's where we were on the 16th of December when the Battle of the Bulge broke out," Sellars said.
It was one of the worst battles of the European Theater.
"We wound up leaving about 250 men laying across the road and out in the field," Sellars recalled.
Sellars and his wife, Frances, went to Luxembourg two years ago for a similar reunion, but she didn't join him on this trip. Still, the honor her husband received two years ago and last month didn't fail to move her.
"They revere them," Frances Sellars said. "That pleases me so much. They never forget."
Frances Sellars met her husband through mutual friends and they married after the war in 1947. Jim Sellars was called to action again as a member of the Air Force Reserves during the Korean War, but he spent his little more than a year service then in Louisiana running a refueling station for the military's newest weapon, jet fighters.
On this trip, Sellars met his travel companions, Ken Boring of Dalton, Ga. and Jack Stitzer from Pennsylvania and his family, in London. From there they traveled by ferry to Cannes, France and then on to Paris.
"We had lunch at the Eiffel Tower," Sellars said.
From there, a bus that Boring, the sponsor of this trip, had rented picked up the group and they began their tour. At each stop in Luxembourg they were met by well-wishers who fed them dinners or drinks.
"We saw just about everything," Sellars said. "When you go back they do everything they can for you."
Some of the mementos preserved by the Luxembourg people were a little surprising. They included some foxholes that Sellars' company had dug.
And in a small town in Belgium the 159th built a bridge and hung a sign on it marking it as their handiwork. The bridge is gone now, Sellars said, but the sign is hanging in a museum.
Boring also went to Luxembourg two years ago and says this trip was his idea.
"I was interested in taking my two daughters aged 19 and 21 over there to see where I fought in the war," Boring said.
Boring also said that the people there are extremely appreciative of Americans.
In September Sellars will have another chance to catch up on well-worn war stories with other members of the 159th at their 16th annual reunion in New York. Those reunions are becoming more and more important. Only about 30 or 35 of his comrades came to the last reunion.
"Out of 900 there's not too many of us left," Sellars said.
The Sellars plan to pass the Fourth of July quietly at home. Or maybe not so quietly, thanks to one of Jim Sellars' many war trophies.
"I might just blow my bugle," said Sellars of the instrument he found near a bombed-out Nazi vehicle in a town in Germany during the Battle of the Bulge. "I don't blow a tune, I just blow it loud."