Comments delivered by Gregory N Matz son of Neil F (deceased) and Eleanor Matz 01-May-2005 Lavenham, Suffolk, England on the occasion of the re-dedication of the 487th Memorial Plaque located in the Lavenham village square during the 487th (H) Bomb Group 60th Anniversary V-E Tour, England/Belgium 29-Apr to 08-May-2005
Father Richard, Members of Council, People of Lavenham, my name is Gregory Matz and I am part of a group of veterans – spouses – children – and grandchildren – of the 487th Bomb Group visiting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
Over two generations ago, a friendly invasion began in the small village of Lavenham. An invasion of young American boys – many of them no older than my own son is – some of them here today. Eventually that number would grow to well over 3000 young boys who came to – and called Lavenham home – at least for awhile. Unfortunately, too many of them never left the continent – and today still sleep in Europe – and in England.
You know – I am of Italian and Slovak heritage. The child of immigrant forebearers who went to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries looking to better their lives. And yet – I feel – as an American today – and I have always felt this way – I feel a greater affinity – and love - for the English than I do for anybody else – including the Slovaks and the Italians.
After all, it was the English that gave birth to America – somewhat reluctantly – but birth none the less. Its is, I suppose, shared language – although your English language sounds so much more refined than our English language – shared values and shared beliefs that bind us together. But more than those – it is a shared kinship – a brotherly relationship that binds – and keeps us together. Roosevelt and Churchill – Thatcher and Reagan – Bush and Blair – the 487th Bomb Group and Lavenham.
Except for that bloody little disturbance with the colonies – our war for independence – and a brief spat in 1812 – when you tried to get us back – when one of us was in trouble and needed help – the other was there – side by side – just like family – just like brothers.
And so it was in 1943 that young boys from all over America converged on – and began to call Lavenham home. After a grueling and wickedly frightening 6 to 10 or 12 hour round trip to fortress Europe – Lavenham was a warm and welcome home.
And so it was in 1943 that the were – over paid, over-sexed and over here – Lavenham took these boys into their hearts and made them their own. In fact, I have several friends – women – back in the states that left their native England 60 years ago and returned to America with their young GI or their young flyboy. And now having spent a couple of days here – I can certainly see why these young boys found these young English women so attractive.
This week – as the world remembers the 60th anniversary of the victory in Europe – the end of the second world war in Europe – the great victory of freedom over fascism – we must vow to learn from history – so as not to repeat history. For I am a great believer in the fact that if we don't learn from history we are bound to repeat history.
But now – more importantly than ever – as that generation passes – we must vow to pass on to our children and our childrens-children that verbal history – those stories – those memories. Make your grand-children know – make your nieces and nephews know – make the neighbors children know – tell them what it was like – tell them what you did – tell what your parents did – don't assume that they'll learn it in school – they won't – especially not like they can learn it from you.
So, as we gather to re-commemorate – to re-affirm and to re-dedicate this memorial to the men of the 487th Bomb Group – on behalf of my late father Neil F. Matz 836th Bomb Squadron, 487th Bomb Group (H), Third Air Wing, 8th United States Army Air Force – and all of the men – living and dead – of the 487th – I'd like to take this opportunity to re-affirm the gratitude of the younger generations of those American boys – to the people of the village of Lavenham – who so lovingly took them in and made them their own – the gratitude and thanks for your hospitality 60 years ago – and your hospitality today – to the people of Lavenham – Thank You – to the men of the 487th Bomb Group – may you fly forever – Thank You.