Since the days of my youth, growing up in Belgium, I have been fascinated with war…
We had a German bunker in our neighborhood that we played “guns” in. We lived two miles from the Waterloo battlefield, with a giant mound and an iconic statue of a lion that is synonymous with the town. Inside one building is a giant panorama: a painting of the battlefield upon the wall of this vast, circular building.

By David Campbell      GBCTOURS.COM

It was one of my very favorite pleasures to climb the steps up into the middle of that building and behold that epic clash… which they further accented with the carnage of battle, including mannequins of dead and dying horses and men, and sounds of cannons, muskets, horses, and battle cries.

Nearby was the very farmhouse where Napoleon spent his last night before the battle… and the wooden table upon which he planned his final act on the world stage.
Every year, our church took a ski trip to the town of Berchtesgaden, Germany. It was home to a US Armed Forces ski resort, and some military members of our church got a deal for the rest of us to ski there. They would stay in the General Walker hotel, a former SS barracks. We civilians stayed just down the hill in a rustic hotel with quite a story: the Hotel Zum Türken. This hotel had the distinction of being the very billet of Hitler’s personal security detachment… his house was a snowball’s throw down the mountain. Our hotel still had the old bunker system intact, and it was a creepy and mesmerizing thing to take that tour and snake down inside the ice cold chambers and view machine gun pits and the entrance to Hitler’s bunker. We were just underneath the ruins of his house.
Having a father who had been the Executive Officer of a Marine Corps Rifle Company, we visited many a war memorial and battlefield as children. I remember the haunting depths of walking the grounds of Dachau… the somber silence of beholding the beautifully manicured graves of the boys who died taking Normandy beach… meeting the mayor of Bastogne as a boy as we learned about the Battle of the Bulge… being taken around the battlefields of Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, by an older member of our church who had served in the Dutch intelligence/underground during WWII.

A further benefit to growing up abroad was the influence of my English friends. Their history and heritage related to military actions run much deeper than ours. We were always squabbling over who did the most to defeat Hitler in WWII (turns out it was the Soviet Union). One massive benefit to me was the realization that there were other viewpoints out there worth considering. But I digress…

The other benefit of the British was a first rate toy manufacturing company called Airfix. They made the very best models and army men. This wasn’t some garbage made-in-Japan (back in the day, remember?) stuff… Airfix made the best replicas of units: the leggings, helmets, and machine guns particular to the Fallschirmjäger (the German airborne); the submachine guns and unique clothing of the Soviet Army; the helmets with camouflage netting and the jump boots of the US Airborne; and even the skis and tiny Edelweiss flowers of the German mountain troops. I absolutely loved it.
My favorite thing to do on a Saturday, while my brother was away and gave me the room to myself, was to lock the door and build giant fortresses with my books and mountains with my blankets. I would spend hours building a landscape and city, and then I would wage war with my various units in delight.

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