Palm Coast, FL – While stories were being swapped over Memorial Day weekend, it was during a classic car show and breakfast hosted at the Palm Coast VFW Post 8696 that a piece of history, significant to World War II veterans and Cold War kids alike, was dedicated on behalf of Brian Chrestoff, by Palm Coast Cruisers president Steve Lancour.
The shadowbox was small but carefully crafted, containing within the tangible symbols of oppression versus freedom. The bits of the Berlin Wall invite today’s reader to dig deeper into the history, dating back to 1945.
The aged and rusted barbed wire reflexively reminds history aficionados of the World War II concentration camps, and each bit of the Berlin Wall inside the shadowbox a reminder of how perilously close the world came to being a very different place.
Set to be placed among the other donated items at the post, Commander Keith Tremblay said that each piece is part of the bigger picture in a larger story of the world’s history.
“We have quite a few pieces of memorabilia in our Warrior Room and this is one of many things that we have that represents our history and all the veterans that do come here to the post,” shared Tremblay, a US Navy Vietnam veteran, who says the 45-year old post has members as old as 102, dating back to World War II.
“The post was really started up by the World War II guys. As a matter of fact, my bugler is 97 and even still helps with bingo,” he said. “This is more of a safe haven for veterans.”
The post is open to the public for visitation of the Warrior Room and the Memorial Wall, and Tremblay hopes younger generations will make a visit to the post to learn more about the firsthand history from those who were there.
“A lot of the things we have are from surviving individuals. Pictures, uniforms, medals are the kinds of things we get from the surviving spouse, and this is also very important for us,” he said. “We have a lot of history in this post, and the men and women who do come here to reminisce and tell their stories, it’s touching.”
Wrapping the dedication into the car show and breakfast event, Cruisers president Steve Lancour said the post has been heavily impacted by the passing of many founding and early members from the World War II era, and as veterans, they feel a responsibility to help support the post for themselves and future generations.
“We have a pretty close relationship with the VFW and a lot of us in the Cruisers are Vietnam veterans too. We just feel close to home right here,” said Lancour.
As a member of the Palm Coast Cruisers, Chrestoff contemplated what to do with the Berlin Wall memorabilia, knowing his family may not realize the historical value of it after his death, and turning to Lancour to see if the VFW would be interested in receiving the donation.
“We put the little box together and I think it came out really nice,” said Lancour.
“It’s very important to tell the stories, especially with us. The Vietnam veterans are the fastest group disappearing around. We’ve all kind of contracted strange stuff, I have Agent Orange issues, a lot of us have that and we’re going to be gone at some point in time and all of this will be lost.”
Editor’s Note: The account below is honest and impactful, and is presented as shared by Brian Chrestoff.
Andy Warhol said everyone is famous f/ 15 minutes and this must be my 15 minutes.
I was on a business trip to Germany to commission some Oil Well Frac equipment I designed back in Houston, TX while working f/ Stewart & Stevenson that had finally arrived in Celle, West Germany. I flew out of Houston Intercontinental on Feb. 25, 1992 on a Jumbo 747 first to Amsterdam and then landed in Hanover, West Germany on Feb. 26th. I took a taxi to my hotel in Celle and settled in f/ my two week stay. The minute it was lunchtime or the work day was over I raced back to my hotel room and then headed out to visit several of the war museums Celle had.
I was, and I still am, a serious student of WWII and could not wait to explore the surrounding area which was filled w/ many historical WWII sights. To me this business trip was nothing more than an opportunity to see firsthand historical WWII sights I had been reading about since I was a pre-teen when my grandmother gave me a WWII book f/ my 12th birthday. I still have that book. The pictures in that book of the Bergen-Belsen Concentration camp haunted me as a young boy. Anne Frank died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen Camp. As luck would have it the BergeVn-Belsen camp was only 10 miles from my hotel. I took a taxi after work on Feb. 27th hoping it would be open but it was not. The Memorial was there to see but the museum was closed. I never did get a chance to get back to the Museum because I had too many other things to see including 2 trips to Berlin. One of the biggest regrets I have in my life is not being able to see the camp (or what was left of it) that I read about as a child.
On Saturday Feb. 29th 1992 my East German host picked me up at my hotel and we drove about 3 hours to reach the Capital City of Berlin, Germany. I had told him I wanted to see the Wall and where those that had been shot and killed by East German guards trying to run across “No-Man’s Land” to freedom in the West. The Wall in Berlin was 99% gone by this time to make way f/ the tourist flocking to the beautiful city of Berlin. You had to travel several miles outside of Berlin where the Wall was very much still there f/ all to see but NOT touch. The spot just outside of the downtown area my host chose had miles of the Wall still intact and pulled off the road so I could take pictures. Suddenly he popped the trunk and handed me a hammer, chisel and wire cutters and motioned f/ me to hurry up get some pieces to take home w/ me. I gave him my camera so he could document my criminal activity in a foreign country. I managed to get a few pieces w/ colored graffiti on it and a piece of barbed wire fencing on the East side of the Wall that was used to prevent potential escapees from getting near enough to the Wall to jump up and grab the top.
There is so much to say about what I saw while in, what was formally known as East Germany, but this will have to do f/ now. I am so very happy my small pieces of such a huge part of World History have a forever home now and will be cared f/ by some authentic war heroes so those in the future who may not be taught the importance of what the Berlin Wall stood f/ can see my pictures of the Wall and the actual pieces I had to hide in a box of candy to get out of East Germany. God Bless the USA.
To see the Warrior Room and Berlin Wall donation, visit the VFW Post 8696 located at 47 Old Kings Road, North. Palm Coast, FL 32137 or call (386) 446-8696 for details.