Legendary combat heroes attend reunion in Tampa - WFLA News Channel 8

Legendary combat heroes attend reunion in Tampa

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - This week in Tampa, a reunion is being held for a remarkable group of men.

The Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the 101st Airborne Association is meeting.  Their stories span from Afghanistan to World War II.  Among the group are some of the last surviving members of the Division that inspired the stories for the book and popular HBO series "Band of Brothers".

Vincent Speranza fought in the 101st in the Battle of the Bulge.

"Remember that I was 19 year old and this was my first combat,” said Speranza.

The conditions were difficult.  Their division was surrounded by German troops.

"We didn't have the ammunition, we didn't have food and most importantly, we didn't have winter clothing,” said Speranza.

What they did have was determination.

"They never made another frontal attack like that again because they had run up against the 101st Airborne,” said Speranza.

There are legendary stories about the actions of the group in combat.  One story involves Speranza, but it took him more than 65 years to learn it had taken on mythical proportions in Europe.  During the combat around Bastogne, Speranza went to a church that had been converted into a field hospital.  Speranza wanted to check on a wounded friend.

“I went to look for my friend who had gotten hit, and he was on the floor there, and I said ‘Joe how you doing’ and he said, ‘oh just a couple of pieces in the leg’ and he said, ‘I'll get out of here in a couple of days’,” said Speranza.

As he was leaving, he asked his friend if there was anything he could do.

The friend replied, "Get me a drink."

In a bombed-out town, surrounded by incoming fire from the enemy, that's not an easy request to fill.

"You'll do anything for a fox hole buddy,” said Speranza.

So off he went, looking in burned-out buildings for a bar.  Finally he says he was able to find one, but broken bottles were all over the floor.  Speranza says he saw a handle for a beer keg, gave it a pull and found what he was looking for.


With true American spirit, he filled his combat helmet with the brew and took it back to his buddy.  Other G.I.'s soon figured out what was going on, and Speranza gave what he could to them.  Finally a doctor figured out what was going on, and ordered Speranza to leave.

Speranza says he forgot about it until he went back to visit Belgium 65 years later to visit the former battlefield.

After visiting the area, he says he became emotional and asked to go to a local bar for a glass of wine.

As he was there, he told the story about finding beer and taking it to his friend.

Speranza says they were amazed he was the young soldier that had inspired a special brew, and an accompanying tradition.  Speranza says there is now a beer served in Belgium that carries the emblem of the 101st Airborne.  The beer is served in a ceramic helmet.

They told Speranza, "Man don't you know you are famous in Europe."

The men of the 101st didn't look at themselves as famous, but they know they did famous things.

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