Kenneth, “Ken,” is an 87 year old veteran that resides in Twin Lake, MI with his lovely wife, Connie. Ken’s Wish of a Lifetime was to be able to return to the place where he was captured as a prisoner of war during WWII: Anzio Beach, Italy.
Ken joined the US Army when he was 19 years old. He was eager to serve and protect his country. He was deployed to several locations before he was stationed in Anzio Beach, Italy. After three months on Anzio Beach, Ken and his platoon were captured by German troops on April 24, 1944. Ken was wounded and was transferred to a few hospitals prior to being sent to prisoner of war camps. He was initially sent to a prisoner of war camp called Stalag XVIII C. (319) in Markt-Pongau, Austria around May 20, 1944. On October 6, 1944, he was transferred to another camp in Germany named Stalag XVII. A. near Schmidmühlen, Germany. After arriving at this new location, it was easy for him to see that this was a “Kommando” camp. This meant that the enemy would use the prisoners in the camp as a labor squad, forcing these men to undergo intense labor with no pay and barely enough food to survive. Ken briefly describes his experiences in a journal he kept during this time–making note of the labor he had done and food that was rationed to him. Ken’s last entry stated that he never thought he would get out of Germany. He received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his valiant actions during this time.
When Ken returned home, he became very involved with his family and community. He started reaching out to different Anzio Beach reunion groups in hopes of being able to connect with people that were stationed in that area as well. Ken had planned a trip with his wife and the reunion group 8 years ago in Anzio Beach, Italy, but he had to cancel this trip due to an emergency open-heart surgery prior to the departure. Ken feels that if he returns to the city he was captured in, he would finally be able to find closure on this portion of his life.
Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime and Celink, Ken’s wish became a reality on October 19, 2013, when he traveled with his wife and daughter to Anzio Beach, Italy. They were able to travel to different sites that were significant to Ken during his WWII days including Anzio Beach, the Anzio Beach Landing Museum, and the American Cemetery in Nettuno. The Vice President of the Anzio Beach Museum in Anzio, Alfredo Rinaldi, had also fought with the American Army at Anzio Beach in 1944. Alfredo was delighted to reunite with another Anzio “Beachhead” and retrace the steps with Ken of the battle that neither will forget. Ken stated “The trip I missed with the group could not possibly have been as good as this trip.”