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Monday, September 11, 2017


Phyllis Adkisson Shess (right) met with a Belgian friend of her father's for the first time.  The gentleman holding the flag that he made as a teen is Felix Arnotte.  He is surrounded by his family, including son Robert and wife Elizabeth.  Phyllis's husband Tom rounds out the image.  The flag was brought out of hiding by Arnotte when he realized his village had been liberated.  He waved the handmade flag to salute the arriving U.S. Army troops.  Phyllis' father, Glenn was among the U.S. troops that rolled into the town on September 10, 1944.

GUEST BLOG / By Phyllis Adkisson Shess—This week in September of 1944, my father, Glenn Adkisson, a U.S. Army lieutenant drove his Sherman tank onto a sunny meadow in Huesy, Belgium. Felix Arnotte, then 17, joyously rushed out to greet him.

During the preceding four years, Felix and his family had lived under Nazi occupation. During that time, they waited and prayed for Allied forces to liberate them. At great personal danger, Felix's mother and sisters created this American flag, and the young teen created its stars from cardboard.

Had they been discovered, a grim fate would have taken them. Instead, they waved this flag as American troops liberated their country, and it has been flown on the anniversary of that liberation for the past 68 years. My father and Felix remained friends until my father passed away in 1998.

Recently, my family and I met Felix and his wife, Elizabeth, and their son at their home in Huesy, Belgium. We shared memories and a wonderful meal. Before we left, Felix, now 90+, presented us with the flag, created with courage and hope more than 70 years ago. Words cannot express how moving it was to meet the "young boy" who welcomed my war-weary father the troops he commanded so many years ago.

Earlier in the day, we rented a car in Brussels and drove to the East side of Belgium, near the border with Germany, to find Felix and his family.  The early spring day brought gray skies and a misty rain.  As we arrived Huesy, our GPS in the car rental gave up trying to locate the Arnotte home.

The village roads were small and overgrown with neatly trimmed hedges.  Few street signs were available and house numbers hard to read.  The rain and gray overcast didn’t make our search any easier.

We circled the area that Felix had described in his emailed directions to us.

All we saw were green hedges.

We turned a corner near the top of a small hill.  There pinned to one of the ubiquitous hedges we saw a tiny American flag among the leaves.

We found Felix.

And, the flag he made and gave us is among our family’s most prized possessions.  It reminds us of the sacrifices so many made in the defense of freedom in all its precious nuances.

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