by Dean Lesar
All through their childhoods, the children of Donald “Bill” Beseler knew nothing of their father’s harrowing days in the Battle of the Bulge. But in an ordinary shoebox stored somewhere in the homes in which they lived, his story survived.
Only when they were adults with their own kids did Vicky, Russell and Rick learn of the shoebox, and its considerable contents. That cardboard container for decades carried cloth spectres of the German soldiers Beseler met as the World War II fighting faded, black swastikas encircled in red, brass buttons signifying some rank in the beaten Nazi force. Collected now, Beseler gone to his great reward, the poignant patches will now reside at The Highground veterans memorial park near Neillsville for future generations to contemplate.
Beseler’s family was at The Highground on April 1 to give the tapestry away to a home their father wished it to be. He visited the site multiple times, and has Legacy Stones there alongside one for his father and each of his sons, military men all. Upon his passing last fall, at age 95, Beseler wanted others to learn something from what he lived.
A junior at Ripon College in 1943, Beseler was in mandatory ROTC training. The son of a World War I veteran, he knew what service to country meant.
“Through day to day observations and through conversations with my dad,” Beseler wrote in his memoirs, “I was well aware of the military way of life.”
Still, as his son-in-law Terry Van Straten says now, Beseler was just “a very, very young officer pulled out of college” when the Army needed to refill its depleted ranks as World War II raged in the European and Pacific theatres.
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