German and Italian POWs remembered: Wreath-laying ceremony honors WWII prisoners buried at Fort Meade

(Left to right:) Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard; Col. Filippo Gabriele, the Italian Army attaché; and Commander Frederic Strauch, the German assistant naval attaché, salute the wreaths in honor of the German and Italian POWs. (Photos by Bryan Spann/Meade TV)

As Fort Meade commemorates its 100th year, Sunday’s annual German-Italian Wreath-Laying Ceremony at the Post Cemetery took on additional significance.

Thirty-three German and two Italian prisoners of war from World War II are interred in the cemetery. The POWs were housed at the Fort Meade detention camp during the war and died in captivity.

Their graves are attended to by the German Women’s Club.

Each year, representatives from both the German Navy Military Attaché and Italian Military Attaché in Washington, D.C., honor their fallen countrymen in a wreath-laying ceremony.

This year, 9 representatives and a spouse from the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as two representatives from the Italian Embassy and their spouses attended Sunday’s event.

The Defense Media Activity and Defense Information School Joint Color Guard post the colors for the annual German and Italian Wreath-Laying Ceremony.

At the start of the 30-minute ceremony, the Defense Information School Joint Color Guard posted the colors. Chaplain (Col.) Terry L. Whiteside gave the invocation and closing benediction.

Chad Jones, Fort Meade public affairs officer, served as emcee.

Speakers included Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard; Commander Frederic Strauch, the German assistant naval attaché; and Col. Filippo Gabriele, the Italian Army attaché.

Rickard opened the ceremony, focusing on the bonds all Soldiers share.

“Those of us in uniform share a special bond that extends beyond national borders,” he said. “We each have tremendous respect for the effects of war and respect for those who must fight.

“Today we are blessed to be allies with our brothers in arms from Germany and Italy. We are thankful for our strong partnerships and look forward to maintaining a strong alliance in the years ahead.”

In his remarks, Strauch echoed Rickard.

Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard shares his thoughts on the alliance between America, Germany and Italy.

“These graves here at the Fort Meade cemetery also stand for the countless soldiers of all nations who served their countries in good faith and who ultimately died far from their families, their loved ones and their homes,” Strauch said.

In closing remarks, Gabriele not only thanked his countrymen for their sacrifice, but Americans as well.

“It is my heartfelt desire to pay tribute to and express my profound gratitude to the thousands of American Soldiers who offered their lives to give the next generation of Europeans and the people of many other places in the world a future of freedom, democracy and prosperity,” Gabriele said.

“We will never forget the sacrifice. And we have the moral obligation to pass their memory to future generations of European citizens.”

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