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Veterans Day: Honoring Service and Sacrifice with WWII Stories

Veterans Day: Honoring Service and Sacrifice We all have loved ones who have served to make this country great. Eric Viskovicz, the owner of Fitness Retreat, also served, and as a Fitness Retreat family, we honor him and all military personnel and their families for their sacrifice. I wanted to share a story from my own family and an email I received last week from one of our guests who is currently in the military. I come from a family of veterans—my father, grandfather, uncle, and many other loved ones have served. Today, I want to take a moment to share the details of my Grandpa Bob’s (Robert Wisen) military service. For those unfamiliar, I am forwarding this article which describes his contributions to the United States and its allies’ victory in WWII, a victory that provides the freedom we all enjoy today.   Robert Wisen was a Technician Fourth Grade (equivalent to a sergeant) in Company D of the First Armored Division’s First Tank Battalion. Fighting in Italy had been ongoing for several years, but the Allies could not reclaim Italy despite outnumbering the Axis forces. The Axis forces had superior strategic placement along the rugged Italian mountain range, enabling them to fire down onto the vulnerable Allied forces. Robert was sent to Italy in January 1945 with reinforcements to secure the final victorious battle against the Axis forces in Italy. One critical factor in this victory was the contribution of the First Armored Tank Division, which could blast over the mountaintops and eliminate the enemy troops firing down on the Allied forces below. As you read through the history, you’ll note a picture of a pontoon bridge over the Po River in Chapter 19. My Grandpa Bob often recounted his experience crossing this bridge, describing it as the most frightening night of his life. This morning, as he looked at the picture, he exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s the bridge! I remember it exactly. How it swayed back and forth and up and down under the weight of the tank in the darkness as we crossed the Po River!” He couldn’t take his eyes off the paper as he stared at the bridge where he almost met his end. According to his story, his superior officer needed a single tank to cross the bridge alone in the dark of night. He looked at Robert and said, “You’re going.” Robert and another man got into the tank and drove it across the bridge to the other side, which the Allies were in the process of taking. They feared being blown up while crossing the bridge, but it was a quiet ride, and they were relieved to make it across. Once on the other side, they were instructed to exit the tank. German guards were stationed at that end of the bridge. There were no lights, no wind, and it was pitch black as the two men crawled out of the tank. Standing in the darkness, unsure of what to do, they heard the sound of a German gun being cocked and didn’t move a muscle, fearing they were about to be shot. Not long after, they got back in the tank and crossed back to Allied territory. Robert doesn’t remember the purpose of the trip, only the terror that awaited in the darkness. Another vivid memory of his service in Italy was the day he first arrived on the front lines. He described the area as beautiful, green, and lush, on the outskirts of a small Italian town. Despite the serene surroundings, danger was ever-present. As they began instructing him on how to load the tank with explosives, a whistling sound suddenly filled the air. The experienced men “hit the deck,” throwing themselves down on the ground, and one of them pulled Robert down with them. They later explained that the whistling sound meant they were being fired upon, and he needed to lay down to avoid the bullets. After he got up, he saw the body of a fellow soldier he had just been talking to, dead on the ground. From that moment on, he threw himself to the ground whenever he heard any unfamiliar noise, whether it whistled or not. As you read through the story of the Northern Apennines and the recapture of the Po Valley, remember that Robert was in the First Armored Division, which is mentioned many times in the historical account of this battle—a battle won by the United States and their allies thanks to the contributions of soldiers like Robert Chester Wisen. Salute to my Grandpa and all those who have served! Read more about the history here. Retold by: Sarah Sventek, Executive Vice President Fitness Retreat To all our members and readers, we encourage you to honor the veterans in your life and reflect on the sacrifices made for our freedoms. For those looking to enhance their own fitness journey, we invite you to join our community on the FitCulture app. It’s the perfect tool to help you stay motivated and achieve your fitness goals, guided by the same dedication and resilience shown by our heroes. Download FitCulture today and become a part of our supportive and inspiring fitness family.