By Capt. Eli Swaim, 2nd Battalion, 354 Regiment
At the end of the day, the 95th Victory Division is a collection of people. The collection is anything but simple. Our people carry on a tradition of victory in the face of overwhelming odds at the hands of the enemy. But how do we continue to move forward if we fail to remember? Not every story is told. Some are lost forever, while others are found.
80 years ago, in the plains of Oklahoma, the 95th Division was activated after the United States entered World War II. This is where his story begins. In November of 1944, Sgt Silvio J. Pedri of the 95th Infantry Division lived a life almost forgotten, a story never told.
In 2018, 10 years after the death of SGT Pedri, his grandson Mark and Mark’s wife Carrie was residing in the home SGT Pedri left behind. Almost accidentally, Cary discovered an old knife under Silvo’s old bed one day. This planted the question in their minds, “What is the place where we’re staying?”.
Soon after Mark and Carrie began to delve into their grandfather’s untold past. They discovered a man that they never knew existed.
Silvo never spoke about his time as a Prisoner of War (POW) but he did keep a treasure trove of documents, letters, and photos that laid the path to finding his lost story.
“These are the stories that were not told about. We’re fed history. We’re told that these are the heroes, or that’s what’s important. But really what’s important are these stories that are so close to us. Those are the stories that often get forgotten” “So that’s what I’m trying to do, save one story.” – Mark
Now, having unveiled his grandfather’s mysterious and grand life abroad Mark set off on the adventure of a lifetime. Inspired by his grandfather’s mantra ‘if something was worth doing, then it was worth doing right’. Mark threw himself into a project of discovery. He decided to ride his bike across Germany in the winter to retrace, document, and honor Silvo’s path. A path that left behind his fiancé and a path that left behind 40,000 white crosses.
“Driving from town to town in the spring to smell the flowers at each stop didn’t feel like the right way, but biking long, lonely stretches of frozen rural Germany did” -Mark
“We’re going to stop the train we’re on and we’re going to do this project” -Carrie
In February of 2019 Mark and Cary completed their trek. He went to where his grandfather went, saw some of what he saw, and lived a small piece of a story now recovered.
Soldiers and civilians of the modern 95th Division pride themselves in their historical legacy of liberating Metz, France. Earning the name ‘Iron Men of Metz’ from the defeated Nazi leadership. The division headquarters and their downtrace command teams were lucky enough to view the completed work from Mark and Carrie’s journey. The compiled work and completed story are told through the documentary ‘Dear Sirs’.
‘Dear Sirs’ is currently touring internationally across film festivals, universities, museums, American Legions, and VFWs telling SGT Pedri’s story as far and wide as possible.
“As the largest Wartime Veterans service organization, it is our duty to help ensure that the stories of our predecessors are told to as many people as possible.” – Mike Cooke, Wyoming American Legion State Commander 2020, Archie Hay Post WY 24
More information about the film and a trailer can be found on its website: https://www.dearsirsfilm.com.
At the end of the day, we are a collection of people, a collection of stories. This is one story that will live on. A story of love, a story of ferocity, and a story of loss never forgotten.