For the last six years, Morris Metz has invited family members and fellow World War II veterans to his home for a New Year’s toast.
It’s a tradition for Battle of the Bulge survivors, he says, to raise a glass at 3 p.m. for the more than 19,000 British and American troops who died in the fighting from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.
Morris is president of the Bulge veterans’ Lehigh Valley chapter. This is the first year I could make it to one of his events.
My wife, Mary, and I showed up 20 minutes before the toast and joined several dozen guests at the beautifully restored 19th century farmhouse Morris and his wife, Dot, own on the line between Forks and Plainfield townships. The couple’s son, Doug, and daughter, Debbie, were there, as well as grandchildren and a great-grandson.
Mary got to meet some of my friends – Ray and Irene Christman, John and Linda Caponigro, Harold Kist, Mark and Jean Kistler, Lou Vargo and Minotte Chatfield. (I’ve done stories on Ray Christman, John Caponigro and Vargo.)
David Colley, author of Safely Rest and other WWII books, was there with his wife, Mary, a photographer.
Jack Davis, who died last year and is in my War Stories book with Christman and Vargo – was represented by daughters Sharon Davis and Janet Kobler. (Janet’s painting of Morris at a military cemetery in Europe hangs on a wall. Her father and Morris were close friends.)
When the clock chimed three times, we raised our glasses for those in the Bulge who sacrificed their lives or have since died. It was a somber moment for the vets around us, who had lost 11 comrades in the last year.
Still, this New Year’s Day was a happy time for these men in their late 80s and beyond, evident in their crinkly smiles. The Greatest Generation yet lives, and will go on.