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WATCH: World War II Veteran Breaks Into Song During Ceremony Honoring His Service In Belgium

 BASTOGNE, Belgium — World War II veteran Bennett Stampes returned to Bastogne for the first time this week, 77 years after he was wounded there in 1944.

Stampes joined three other veterans of the brutal Ardennes campaign — better known as the Battle of the Bulge — for a ceremony held at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. Because it was his first trip back, he was presented with a Battle of the Bulge service medal.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Plank, a retired founding member of the Liberty Jump Team, has made it his mission to escort veterans back to the battlefields of Europe — and he joked as he presented the medal that he had even helped Stampes to get a passport in order to make the trip a reality.

Helen Patton, granddaughter of General George S. Patton, moved forward to pin the medal on Stampes’ chest. “You didn’t need a passport last time you came, did you?” she joked. And after some confusion over whether she should pin it to his coat or to his shirt, she began to sing.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow, when the world is free
The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see

Stampes joined Helen in the song, pausing only when she changed the name in the second verse from “Jimmy” to “Bennett.”

“I had a feeling there was a song in there somewhere,” Patton laughed as everyone applauded.

U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Nicholas Berliner stepped up next, delivering a message to the gathered veterans and spectators.

“We all owe you a debt of gratitude,” Berliner began. “We’ve talked about remembrance and what’s happening in the world and what happened then, and we know that what you did was to make sure that that would never happen again. And that’s why what this museum is doing is so important, what all the others are doing is so important to keep the memory alive, of remembrance, so that not only we remember this but so the next generation also remembers this, that your grandson learns about this. Because it’s through learning about this, through knowing what happened, knowing how this came about, knowing what these men did, what they experienced, what they lived through — that we make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

“So this is a vital mission,” Berliner continued. “I’ve been — it’s really remarkable how that memory is kept alive in Bastogne. Every time we come here, we see how the veterans are remembered, how their legacy is honored, and how this whole town participates in that — and dare I say, much of Belgium, too, because I think particularly here in Belgium, they know the price of this. It happened twice in just over the last century, it happened twice. And so they know that this freedom that we enjoy was fought for and was not necessarily the norm throughout history — something precious, something that we need to fight for and maintain and be diligent and be vigilant and be careful. But to you, we owe enormous gratitude for what you gave, for what you did, answering your country’s call and being there. So, thank you.”

Stampes, still standing, saluted Berliner — and then turned to salute others in the crowd.

December 18 is the 77th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge — the German counteroffensive siege of Bastogne that resulted in over 75,000 American casualties but also marked an important turning point in the war, as the German Army was irreparably weakened.

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