I am sure many of you noticed that I hadn’t posted a new blog for some time and a few were even probably glad. Well, the reason I hadn’t was that my attention was on foreign matters. On Easter Sunday, Deb and I headed to Ireland to welcome our top brokers when they arrived on Tuesday. We had six qualifiers and their guests along with ourselves and Nate and Emily Olson and we had a wonderful time. Our trip included staying in the Castel Dromoland two nights, a country home for two nights, and a beautiful guest house in Dublin for two nights. The brokers were treated to the sights and scenery that is Ireland and I would encourage you to talk to them and ask if their hard work was worth the effort. I am pretty sure you will find them on next year’s trip to the Dominican Republic. Maybe you should find out how you can qualify.

The real story comes after the time in Ireland when Deb and I decided to stay in Europe and visit France and Belgium. A few years ago, actually about 17, we hosted a young man from the Czech Republic for a year while he attended a high school in Omaha. Today, that young man lives in Luxembourg which is quite close to Belgium. We agreed to meet up with him in Brussels and enjoy a beer or two and then travel with him and his guest throughout France. We truly enjoyed the time we spent with them seeing parts of Normandy (including Omaha Beach), as well as Bordeaux. This part of the trip was fun, exciting, and it was made even more special by Radim’s ability to speak fluent French. We enjoyed fine cuisine as well as fantastic wines. As we left Bordeaux, Deb and I struck out on our own and drove to Lorient. You see, the whole reason for staying over was to visit the area that her dad, Henry R. Kritzer, was shot down, and made a prisoner of war during WWII. We had agreed many years ago to try and visit the area if we ever got the chance.

Prior to going, I had made a connection with a French gentleman who was interested in the history of the Lorient region and was aware of the planes crash landing. He agreed to meet us and show us around the area and that is exactly what he did. Although he really didn’t speak or understand English, and obviously, I don’t speak or understand French, we were able to communicate. He began by taking us to the Isle de Groix which is where Mr. Kritzer was held prisoner. The prison was an old fort that the Germans used to hold the POWs. It was a beautiful place and is currently a summer camp for kids but its history was remarkably darker. The caretaker of the fort showed us around and you could easily understand how escape was impossible. Now only was the fort secure but even if you managed to get outside the fort, it was at least a ten mile swim to the mainland. Alcatraz had nothing on this place. The neatest thing was in some of the rooms used as cells; the prisoners had drawn or etched the walls with pictures and notes from their captivity. These still exist and are a memory of those times.

We also were allowed to stand on the very spot that the plane came to rest even though today, it sits in the midst of a naval base for France. When our “guide” explained who we were and the circumstances, the person in charge took our passports, gave us credentials, and we proceeded to be allowed on the base. Standing at the very spot was quite moving and to think that this 19 year old kid stepped out of their damaged plane and was immediately met by armed German soldiers is hard to fathom. We also went to a museum on the base where an exhibit had a piece of the plane along with a picture of Mr. Kritzer with his crew. Without our knowledge, our guide had arranged for 13 retired military men to be present and we were ushered into a room, offered a drink and they toasted Mr. Kritzer. Not a one of them spoke English but we really felt their honoring of his sacrifices. This was also quite moving and will forever be part of the memory of France for Deb and I. Lastly he took us to the place where the last prisoner of war exchange took place and Mr. Kritzer was part of that group. All in all, the perfect ending to our adventure and it made the time away from the office worthwhile.

What does this all have to do with your business? Nothing really, just was a chance to get away, charge the batteries so to speak and honor the contributions of a true American, willing to give everything so that we could enjoy our freedom. Thanks Henry.