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WWII veterans honored during remembrance ceremony at Fort Knox

WLKY Louisville logo WLKY Louisville 6/18/2017
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World War II veterans with the 66th Infantry Division took part in a ceremony of remembrance Thursday at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox.

Fifteen veterans with the Black Panther Division were recognized for their service.

It was also a chance for veterans and their families to reunite and remember.

"You meet everyone again, you know, and it's like home week, old home week, you know, and -- because these guys are almost like brothers," said 66th Infantry veteran Jerome Roettgers.

On Christmas Eve, 1944, the 66th infantry division crossed the English Channel heading for the Battle of the Bulge when a U-boat torpedoed the SS Leopoldville, one of the division's troop transport ships.

Andrew Staruch, also of 66th Infantry Division, was watching from the deck of the HMS Cheshire when he saw a torpedo go by in the water.

"And all of the sudden, we heard this noise. Everything erupted and then everything broke loose," Staruch said.

Fourteen officers and 748 enlisted men died as a result of the sinking of the Leopoldville.

It was the second deadliest troopship disaster during the war in the European theater.

As they received medals for their service, survivors can't help but look back and remember those who never made it home.

"They were willing to give their lives for what they thought was a good cause," Roettgers said.

The veterans represent a living history, and they hope that younger generations will learn about the bravery and sacrifice of heroes past.

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