Perhaps the most moving part of our trip to Italy was our visit to the American Cemetery and Monument near Florence. Of the 4402 soldiers buried there, 355 were in the 10th Mountain Division. To say these numbers means little until you can walk between the grave markers and really feel how many there are, or stand next to the wall on which the soldiers' names are inscribed and see how large it is. So many lines, so many letters. So many names.
As part of a beautiful memorial ceremony, two wreaths were presented in honor of the 10th Mountain Division. One was presented by Italian reenactors wearing World War II era 10th Mountain Division uniforms, and the other by present-day 10th Mountain Division soldiers from Fort Drum, New York.
Following the ceremony, we placed a flower at each of the 355 10th Mountain Division soldiers' graves. As I walked I took off my shoes in order to feel the grass between my toes and know that I had really been there. It was both humbling and haunting, and not an experience I'll ever forget.