Visiting the USA in 2008
Reason for this visit
We have a project at work called 'Twinning' which is - simply stated - induced to adjust our way of producing steel with the way our 'sister' in Burns Harbor, Indiana makes 'her' steel and vice versa. The plant in Indiana Harbor is also involved. This means a lot of traveling, meeting, training, etc... for our employees and the Burns Harbor colleagues involved, and I am one of them, lucky me!
So, when 'duty called' and a trip to Indiana was in the making, the idea of staying a bit longer became more concrete and making phone calls and sending mails forth and back started to increase. The trip was first planned for mid June, but due to some maintenance and other issues, the trip was to be postponed to end of July.
I stayed a week in Indiana working at the Burns Harbor plant and I must say this was overwhelming.
I found a nice place to stay, and terrific colleagues who showed me around and showed me all kinds of good food and spots in-between after work. I was in a hotel in Portage IN, the 'Country Suites and Inn', just one hour drive from Chicago.
The idea was, while I was in the States, was that I would try to visit some 'old' friends from the 463rd PFA and the 506th PIR, and also friends in New -York and New Jersey.
Looking back now, the trip was more than a success, from the business part and especially on the personal part.
I had been in seven states, starting with Illinois and Indiana, towards Michigan, then a flight to North Carolina, a quick forth and back to Virginia, ending with another flight to New Jersey and a visit to New -York City. A great deal of new memories to cherish an entire lifetime...
Below are some impressions of the trip.
Chicago, IL and Indiana
Visiting Frank Perconte
I landed on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Chicago O'Hare and went to collect my car. Fine thing was that we could choose. They suggested to take a just turned in Volkswagen, but I said 'No thanks, I'd rather have an American one'. This was a funny moment. I took the Dodge Avenger and off I went. My first stop was in Joliet, IL.
I had a suggestion from a good friend, George Luz, Jr., who told me to pay a visit to Frank Perconte, so I did. I contacted Frank before the trip and it was fine by him. He still knew me which was great. We met before the day of the inauguration of the Easy Company monument at Bastogne. We then had a nice long conversation at their hotel in La Roche, so it was nice to see each other again, after three years.
Frank Perconte is a WW2 veteran from the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Easy Company.
(I presume you already knew that, but.... )
We had a little chat about different things, I gave him a little present and then I left for Portage, IN.
Later that week I was lucky to pay a visit to the city of Chicago (after work hours!), with a friend and colleague of Indiana Harbor.
A view from the Hancock Tower.
We went upstairs with the fastest elevator in the world : 1500 feet in 40 seconds, 94 floors...
View towards the "Navy Pier" of Chicago
http://www.navypier.com says it all :
Navy Pier is the place where all of Chicagoland and tourists from around the world have come together
since 1995 to enjoy the beauty and the thrills of a day on Lake Michigan.
From rides to restaurants, exhibitions to entertainment, shopping to dining cruises and tour boats
Navy Pier has it all - in a location unlike any other!
View of the City, Ol' Blue Eyes was right :
"This is my kind of town, Chicago is
When I told my friend Stan that I would be in Indiana for work, he immediately mailed back that he wanted to come from Kokomo, IN to Portage.
He made a long trip just to have dinner with me and then drive back to Kokomo. Wow, that is what I call true friends !!
Thanks again Stan, that made my day !
Stan and I in the Longhorn Steakhouse in Portage, IN.
Stan is a WW2 History Buff and a friend of WW2 veteran Don Burgett and Historian Mark Bando, both from Michigan.
The Great Lakes Museum of Military History
Later that week, just before finishing the job at the steel plant, my colleagues took me to a nice little museum in Michigan City, where they have very interesting Historical material. I spent some amount of time in there. You can imagine !
The Great Lakes Museum of Military History is located just 60 miles East of Chicago, IL.
(360 Dunes Plaza, W. US Hwy. 20, Michigan City, Indiana 46360 (219) 872-2702 or 1-800-726-5912)
World War I scene
Things we don't find often in Europe :
material related to the War in the Pacific.
Trip to Don and Twyla Burgett, Howell (Michigan) on Friday afternoon
Once my job was done in Indiana, I drove a couple of hours towards Howell in Michigan to pay a visit to Don and Twyla Burgett. Don is a well known WW2 veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Able Company, and also a famous writer. He is the author of the book "Seven Roads to Hell", about the Battle for Bastogne in the Bulge.
I had a very warm welcome at their home. Don showed me the room where he writes his books and a lot of other interesting stuff, including one of his guns. Nice thing is that we practiced some shooting in the garden. Twyla made a delicious dinner and I had a taste of some of the most famous Michigan melon. After that we chatted all evening long. Their dog Charley seemed to like me very quickly. He is a very cute doggie.
Don lives in a very fine quiet place where one can see deer occasionally, wild turkey running around in the garden, many humming birds and squirrels, and firefly in the evening (I had never seen that before).
On the way to Howell I noticed 'familiar' road signs... The first one was 'Watervliet, MI',
which is also a town only a couple of miles from where I live in Belgium...
and 'Kalamazoo', which made me think of Glenn Miller on the spot !
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H
Don shooting his gun in the garden.
I had the honor to try it myself. Thanks, Don !
A wonderful couple : Don and Twyla in front of their Smoke Tree.
Don is holding Charley on his arm.
A couple of minutes before leaving Howell, saying goodbye.
Hope to meet again, that's for sure !
I had to drive back to the airport now, turn my car in and fly to Raleigh, NC.
Flying and driving to meet Bill and Mildred Tingen in Winterville (Greenville) - North Carolina
I was thrilled to see my old friends again, who I visited in 2004, when Bill turned 80. I had always hoped to see Bill (who I call Pop ever since) and his lovely wife Mildred again after that, but was afraid it would never happen. But, things turned out well and he was also glad to hug his 'son' again! Bill is a wonderful person. He is also a WW2 veteran from the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery. This battalion as you will know by now - I'm sure - was attached to the 101st Airborne Division at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, and became officially part of it in February 1945.
I had a warm welcome at their new home and I was very glad to see them again, and in the morning I was also thrilled to see his son Pistol and his wife Madeleine. I stayed there three or four days, so we had a lot of time to talk and enjoy our time being together.
On Monday I had arranged a special meeting, we were going to meet Bill's former battalion EXO, Major Stuart Seaton, 2nd in Command of the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery, who lives in Richmond, Virginia. They had not seen each other since the war ended !
Bill's wife Mildred, Bill, Pistol's wife Madeleine and Bill's son Pistol in front of Bill's place in Winterville, NC
In front of Bill's place, Pistol's car at left (wow!), 'mine' at right, a little smaller : a Chevrolet Cobalt.
Trip to meet Major Stuart Seaton and his wife Virginia in Richmond, Virginia
On Monday we had an appointment with the Seaton family in Richmond, Virginia. This was a three hour drive, but the weather was dry and warm and there was not much traffic in the morning, so this was a fine trip. We got there on time, earlier than expected, even if we got the wrong house first, which belonged to Major Seaton's son in the past, also a Mr. Stuart Seaton. A quick call to Pistol solved the problem and 15 minutes later, we found the right home. It looks as if I didn't do my homework there, hmmm, might use another website in the future, SearchBug for instance.
We were welcomed by Mr. Stuart Seaton and his lovely wife, Virginia, who prepared us a very tasty lunch. We had a ball and it was a goose bumps moment for me to see these two former Brothers in Arms talking about their mutual past.
I am very glad I made this happen. It was certainly worth the trip. Everyone enjoyed the meeting very much.
Leaving North Carolina and entering Virginia state.
Bill Tingen, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Seaton
Me, Bill and Mr. Stuart Seaton
We drove back in the late afternoon and got caught in traffic because of some road work on the 95 close to Enfield. This was not a major problem since we had a lot to talk about, so we didn't feel sorry for the 30 to 45 minutes extra...
Back home we discussed our day with the family and after that, we had a good night sleep.
In the morning it was time to pack my bags again, unfortunately, but Pistol brought me some good fruit and candy bars to eat on my trip to Raleigh-Durham while I was waiting in the airport terminal for my flight to Newark, NJ.
I was only 5 minutes from their home and started to miss them already. It's difficult to imagine maybe or to explain, but the Tingens are such nice people that it is a real honor and a true blessing to be their friend! Every minute spent with them is real joy.
On my way from Winterville to Raleigh I noticed this road sign.
Reminded me of another good friend and veteran of the 463rd....
Almost ending the journey in New Jersey and New York with Kevin and Beth.
Another opportunity of this trip was the possibility to meet some good friends again, who live in Weehawken, New Jersey.
Initially, I had to choose whether to fly back to Chicago and so on to Europe, or fly to New York.
After a chat with our good friends, Kevin and Beth, who we celebrated New Year's Eve with in 2006 in Bruges, Belgium, it was clear that they would like me to 'jump in' and pay them a visit. It was a short one, because I arrived late afternoon and I had a plane to catch the next day at JFK Airport, but nevertheless, it was a fine opportunity to spend some time together and have a glimpse of the Big City.
Kevin is also a true history buff and friend of Don Burgett, Mark Bando, Stan and many others.
I met Kevin in Bastogne for the first time and again in Normandy, when he was there with Beth.
To Kevin and Beth, I want to say Thank You again for everything you've done for me that evening and in the morning and day after.
It was nice to see the City and we had a great tasty pizza over there.
That same evening I was lucky to see Steve again, who lives in the City, and who was also in Bruges with his wife Therese in 2006.
Back to early January 2007, just after New Year, while visiting Bastogne together.
From left : Kevin, Reg's wife Anne, Reg, Steve and Beth.
New York City and the Hudson River, picture taken from Weehawken, where Kevin and Beth live.
A drive trough the City, here a view on Times Square
Back to Weehawken at night, view on New York again.
End of the Journey
The day after this, Kevin and I took a bus to the City and he showed me Bryant Park. Then I had a little walk here and there around Broadway and too soon it was time to catch the bus towards JFK Airport and fly back to Europe....
Well, a bunch of memories to cherish a lifetime!
Thanks to everyone for receiving me at your homes and letting me feel very welcome. I will never ever forget any one of you, my friends!
Thank you, Tess, for editing this page!