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William Reyenga, 1960 William Reyenga

Last Name: `
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Street:  116 HWY 32 E City & State: HOPE, AR E-Mail:  wtreyenga@arkansas.net
Zip: 71801 Phone:  (870) 777-4516 Spouse: FAYE
Conflict: WW II, KOREAN (ETO, Pacific Theaters) Service Branch: ARMY Unit: 423 rd INF. REGT. 106 INF. DIV.
Theater: Where Captured: BATTLE OF THE BULGE, GERMANY Date Captured: 12/19/44
Camps Held In: 4B MUHLBERG, 3B FIRSTENBURG, 3A LUKENWALD, 11A ALTEN GRABOW How Long Interned: 140 days
liberated / repatriated: liberated Date Liberated: 05/08/45 Age at Capture: 23
Occupation after War:  SOLDIER

Military Bio:


The 106th Infantry Division was activated March 15, 1943 at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina. It was unique, special and different by being the highest numbered and last Division organized in World War II. Also, at the same time that America’s (pride of family) 18 and 19 year old draftees entered the services (some even serving with their fathers). The 106th was named “The Golden Lion”. The Lion is a beautiful, powerful animal. Their family is very close knit and the family is called “a pride”. They are the king of the jungles!

I am forever indebted and eternally grateful to the 106th Infantry Division. It was the vehicle that literally pushed many of America’s finest young men over the threshold from boyhood to manhood. We faced the first real responsibilities of our lives and became soldiers, servants to all mankind and to each other. Our survival depended on our relationships with each other. Many times you stepped forward and by your words, deeds and action you intervened to save my life and to save each other. Your attitudes encouraged me and gave me the strength to keep going and to survive. Your bodies surrounded me as we slept on the wet, icy, cold ground; some died, we survived. Out of our relationships, a bond of compassion and love emerged. No one has been able to fully describe our feelings toward each other. Only those who were there really know. Compassion has been defined as “your pain in my heart,” to feel your pain I must walk in your shoes, experience your feelings, and touch your soul. We have compassion for each other borne out of our experiences, ordeals, and our adversities. “When you see or hear the words of those that were there you will understand-unk” Our relationship did not end at the time that we were captured. They only became stronger as we depended on each other and as we defended each other.

“The Golden Lion” in its embryonic stage was just a “cub” when I reported February 1, 1943. Our 423rd Medical Det. Cadre came from 318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division to help form the 106th Infantry Division. My duty assignment was with the 2nd platoon, 423rd Medical Det. Our platoon served the 2nd BN of the 423rd Infantry Regiment. I was assigned to a barrack and overnight it was filled with 18 and 19-year-old young men. For some it was their first time away from home; for me it was my first fatherly experience! Thirty-two of America’s finest young men were entrusted to my care. We grew and matured rapidly because of our responsibilities. Each member of the platoon was a special member of their immediate family and became a “very special” member of our platoon. They became a dedicated, devoted, and disciplined unit. Each knew their responsibilities and performed them well. The health, welfare and morale of ‘the Lions” was our concern and responsibility; they served valiantly.

The 106th organization was the vehicle but you the “Lions” members were the living instruments that influenced and gave guidance to my life; also it gave meaning, purpose and the fulfillment to a country boy’s dreams. My ultimate dream was to play major league baseball (was playing Class “D” when drafted). The 106th gave me the opportunity to “chase that dream.” We the 106th played both with and against the major league’s best players for two seasons (1943-1944). These experiences prepared me for the future; it opened the doors of opportunity that allowed me to coach and to play with America’s best ball players for sixteen years after World War II. But, you the members that I served with were the instruments that moved me from a boy to man. Our relationships were closer than a brother; your commitment to duty was encouraging to me. We developed a bond of love that only those who were there can ever know. It was an honor and the great privilege of my life for the training and experiences that grew out of my relationships with you. Your influence and examples have shaped my life. We each in his own life have made a worthwhile contribution to society and to our great nation. We trained and have nurtured “The Golden Lion”. I believe that in our heart of hearts, we have never, nor will ever give her up; she will always be our “pride” and joy. I shall always remain a loyal, devoted member of that great pride (family) of “Golden Lions.”

December 19, 1944 was the darkest day of my life. First it was the defining moment of our lifetimes. It was a point in time when we stood before the enemy helpless, defenseless, and subject to his mercy. Hope was our only weapon and it was dimly flickering. Next, late in the same afternoon, I learned that my entire platoon of devoted soldiers and friends had been either killed or captured-my soul agonized! Thank you-all the dedicated men who have spent your time, energy, and resources in order to perpetuate and maintain the history, the spirit, and the soul of The Golden Lion. We all are deeply indebted to you and to the outstanding job you have done and continue to do. Our tradition is great-“The Golden Lion” is a symbol of strength and beauty. The Bible says in Proverbs 26:13 KJV: “There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.” We were there; we contributed and we served with “pride”.

I believe that there is a “defining moment” in our lives a turning point, crossroad, or a time when our lives hang in the balance. December 19, 1944 at the exact time when you and I were surrendered to the Germans was such a moment in our lives. A wounded German Sgt. was brought into the aid station on December 18th. He probably saved our lives because a German soldier put a rifle through the window. The German Sgt. said don’t shoot, they are “alles kaput” (finished). In my mind’s eye that could have been the final chapter in our lives. Instead we survived and I have been “richly blessed”.

I have been called lucky, but unfortunately luck plays out. Blessings are eternal. An unknown confederate soldier wrote this poem. It is a mirror of my life; of my dreams; of my prayers; and of the special blessings that I received, but did not deserve nor earn. They were truly a gift of God’s amazing grace.

“Richly Blessed”
I asked God for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak,
That I might learn humbly to obey,
I asked for health, that I might do great things;
I was given infirmity,
That I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God;
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for—
But everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself
My unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men,
Most richly blessed.

My prayers for you are that you are being blessed as I have been blessed.
Written with deep love and compassion to all “Golden Lions”.

My Message to Future Generations:

To My Family and To My Friends Everywhere: These are my memoirs, mementos, perspectives, beliefs and testimony, influences and events that have molded my life and a testimony of my faith. Each of us are products of our environment. Shakespeare said, “The world is a stage, it men and women its actors.” My life has been at center stage most of the time, wherever I was in that part of the world, not because of any great talent on my part. My outer person may show conceit or a large ego, but my inner self (my soul) is filled with humility and a feeling of unworthiness; a sinner saved by God’s great grace, truly thankful for all the blessings, happiness, and peace that life brings. Also, this is the story of my life. An attempt to answer the questions that I would like to know. A search for meaning in my total being. Who am I? What is my purpose for living? Where did I come from? What is the guiding force that directs my every move? I think that each of us have a story to tell, a book to write, and a song to sing. This is my story based on my life’s experiences. Trials, tribulations and adversities have been my greatest teachers. Once upon a time I claimed luck as a survival companion. Today, I know that divine guidance (angels in disguise) has been and is that survival companion. I believe that there is a supernatural force that is in the soul of all mankind. A force that we can choose and by choosing receive blessings unlimited. That force is love. God is love! He dwells in the soul of all mankind giving each of us the strength, courage, and wisdom to overcome our “storms of life”, adversities, etc. If we will only believe and obey Him. No obstacle is too great for us to overcome. As I look back and reflect on the events of a lifetime, these truths emerge. God chose me from the foundation of the world (Bible). My father and mother were dedicated Christian believers. They were living examples of that faith. By their examples and influence we learned how we should live. This is a letter to my friends and to all others that have touched my life, those that were captured with me and became POWs (some survived, some died). I am a patriot; servant, warrior, sportsman, believer, also a collector of words, quotations, books, poetry, proverbs, songs of inspiration, and most of all a collector of people with a wish to give love to hurting souls. My life has been a blessing because of these great relationships with others. Our lives touched, our souls bonded, and we became a part of each other. My job assignments afforded me unlimited opportunities to have “defining moments” with people from all walks of life; to meet them, to grow from those relationships. My ambition today is to “retouch” those lives in order to give more of myself to each of you; to set a better example, to show compassion, defined “as your pain in my heart”; to encourage you to seek until you find the peace, contentment, and happiness that is present in my soul. Simple spiritual principles have helped me to live more fully, deeply and joyfully. My prayers are that you too will discover and enjoy the same feelings as I. Written with love and compassion, Bill Reyenga

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