TROINA, Sicily - The American and Italian flags are carried side-by-side down the narrow streets of a Sicilian town; a symbol of the shared history of battle, loss and sacrifice.
Marines and sailors with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa Detachment A joined more than 20 U.S. service members in a parade and wreath-laying ceremony in remembrance of the Battle of Troina during World War II in Troina, Sicily, Italy, Aug. 2, 2015.
The word "remembrance" is written on a cross within the wreath laid during a ceremony in honor of the loss and sacrifice of the Battle of Troina in World War Two in Troina, Sicily, Italy, August 2, 2015. Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, Detachment A, participated in the town's ceremonial events remembering the shared history and sacrifice of the two countries who faced a harsh Nazi resistance during the battle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Olivia McDonald)
This was the first time since 1959 American military personnel and the people of Troina came together, marching in unison, up the winding roads of the mountainous town, with beads of sweat pouring down their faces on the hot, summer day with their Italian counterparts in remembering the cost of that bloody battle 72 years ago.
In 1943, when the Italians had a referendum to choose between the republic or the monarchy, the town of Troina was one of the few Sicilian towns to vote for a republic. The battle of Troina took place toward the end of July and into August of that year as the Americans fought to liberate its citizens from the Axis enemy through hills and streets of the Sicilian town. Both sides suffered many casualties during the week-long fighting, including 116 civilian casualties before the town was liberated from the Germans.
“The liberation by the Americans was welcomed by the local population, who were for the values of freedom,” said Fabio Venezia, mayor of Tronia. “The values that the Americans came here to liberate the town from the Nazi fascism were deeply felt and upheld by the local people.”
These are the values that are still cherished by generations of the people of Troina.
“This ceremony is important because remembering the past allows us to learn a lesson for the future,” Venezia said. “The values won during that battle need to be upheld today and handed out to the future and new generation to continue to support freedom and democracy.”
Residents of Troina, Sicily, Italy, overlook the Marines and sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, Detachment A, as they parade through the streets alongside Italian veterans during the Battle of Troina remembrance ceremony August 2, 2015. Representatives of the Sicilian community, civil and military, participated side-by-side with their American counterparts honored the sacrifices made during the battle in 1943. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Olivia McDonald)
After the parade, the service members observed a mass in the town's 16th-century Cathedral of Maria SS Annunziata and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the lives lost during the battle.
“It was a time to commemorate, to remember, to honor all who died and to reconnect with Sicilians and our own heritage as Americans and our role in WWII,” said Navy Lt. Derrick Horne, the SPMAGTF-CR-AF Det. A chaplain and native of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“It was a memorable experience to connect with our past and remember those who sacrificed,” added Horne. “To see the Italian representatives, many who were teenagers during that time, to be there in their presence and to hear their stories, it was very moving.”
The people of Troina shared their history and hospitality with the Marines.
“They came with open arms,” said Lance Cpl. Heather Ruano, a landing support specialist with SPMAGTF-CR-AF and native of Houston, Texas. “As an American, to see how well the people accepted us, it was really breathtaking. The way they looked at us, you could see the amount of respect they had for us.”
Given this was the first time in 56 years all four branches participated in this ceremony, Venezia wants to start an annual tradition, for years to come, to have all four U.S. military branches alongside its town's people.
“It is very important to have the U.S. military delegation here because together we are one community. We are one united group of people who are remembering together the civilian casualties and service members,” Venezia said. “We want to be united together in this spirit which will allow us to reflect and uphold the values of freedom and democracy.”
The Marines and sailors ended their night with a tour of the town many Americans had fought and died to liberate many years before. Remembering America's heritage with this WWII commemoration gave the service members a memorable glimpse into their past and an opportunity to appreciate the shared values between partner nations.
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Olivia McDonald
Provided through DVIDS
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