Until the last few years of his life, Bill Kelly’s best friends rarely ever heard him talk about being a soldier during the Battle of the Bulge.
Thanks to Kelly’s vision, however, the battle and those who served their country at that time will be remembered for generations to come.
“Bill and I were friends since I was 12 years old, and in all those years I knew Bill I never knew he was a Battle of the Bulge veteran until maybe five or six years before he died. I knew he was a veteran, but he never spoke about that until the last few years of his life,” said Bob Reynolds, who was a fellow member of VFW Post 12 with Kelly. “He was frostbitten and lost 20 percent of the men in his unit over there.”
Reynolds said his friend knew a Battle of the Bulge monument would be placed at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North East, even if he did not get to be there when it was placed last week.
“He didn’t get to see it, but he did get to see it. He picked out the design and chose the location here,” Reynolds said, watching a small crew of supporters and veterans empty bags of marble stones into the foundation of the white-granite monument only moments after they used a donated boom truck to stack the heavy sections into place.
“He would say, ‘It’s not for me Bobby Jack. It’s for those kids who were injured or never made it back home ... do it for them.’” said Reynolds, himself an Iraq War veteran and retired sargent major with 26 years of service in the Army reserve.
Kelly developed a plan to place a Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge memorial somewhere in Greenup County, Reynolds explained, although finding “just the right spot to have it placed,” was a challenge. When the Kentucky Dept. of Veterans Affairs opened the fourth veterans cemetery in the state near the Boyd/Greenup/Carter borders, however, Kelly knew it was the perfect spot for the monument. Kelly chose a design similar to the Battle of the Bulge monument in Tucson.
“Bill selected the design and the location. We just helped him. It was all his idea,” Reynolds said, watching a small group of cemetery employees and volunteers as they tended to final details at the monument including trimming the adhesive from beneath the top section of granite.
Kelly died in January before the monument was delivered, although he did have opportunities to thank people who had joined in the effort. “It’s not important that I get to see it,” Kelly is reported to have said. “I now know that it will be done and when people go there they can see and read the monument and hopefully they will never forget the thousands of Americans that died and the thousands that were wounded in just under six weeks.”
Reynolds said the monument was funded entirely by private donations and the support of VFW posts. He added the opportunity to work toward the monument’s placement was an outstanding experience.
“It’s an honor. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of work and I’ve enjoyed all of it,” he said. “It’s truly been an honor. I like the idea of kids, 50 or 60 years from now, seeing it and asking someone about the Battle of the Bulge. You can’t learn everything from the Internet.”
A dedication ceremony for the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge monument will be conducted at the veterans cemetery at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 12, preceding a Veteran’s Day ceremony at 10 a.m. For more information, Reynolds at (606) 836-7167, or Kentucky Veterans Cemetery at 929-1555.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.