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Visit Lt. Ainsworth gravesite in Italy

While on a mid-winter trip to Rome, Italy, Dave and Sally Berkholder (daughter of Chuck and Bettie Rasmussen) took a side-trip to the American Military Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, to visit the grave site of 2Lt. Ellen Ainsworth (a WWII army nurse and one of the first women to receive the Silver Star) who was killed in the Battle of Anzio, seventy-years ago on February 16th, 1944.

Upon reaching the cemetery, Dave and Sally walked to the Visitor Center to seek assistance in locating Lt. Ainsworth’s grave.  When the office staff learned that Sally was raised in Glenwood and had personal knowledge of Ellen, she and her husband were given a private tour of the grounds, grave site, as well as the new Visitor Center currently under construction.  Sally said that even with the passage of time, it was particularly touching the affection and admiration the staff feels toward Ellen.  Quoting Tina Young, cemetery manger, “I feel like Ellen is my friend, and a person I wish I knew more about.” To say that Ellen is a favorite is an understatement!

On a tour of the new Visitor Center, Ms Young, described for Sally their “Wall of Sacrifice,” a new, permanent exhibit to be dedicated on Memorial Day.  The “Wall of Sacrifice” will highlight the heroism of eight individuals who valiantly gave their lives in the liberation of Italy.  Ellen is one of the eight chosen for this exhibit, and the only woman.  In addition to this honor, Ellen’s grave is one of three or four graves that the staff regularly takes visitors to; a significant honor considering that the cemetery is the final resting place for 7,800 military personnel with one Medal of Honor and eighteen Silver Star recipients among the elite.

On the train ride back to Rome, Sally reflected on a comment made by one of the Italian tour guides in Rome who said that Mussolini wasn’t all bad, and that he had actually done some good for the Italian people–and whose only mistake was choosing the wrong side. Walking among the rows of perfectly aligned white crosses, Sally couldn’t help think of the American soldier, both men and women far away from home, who ultimately paid the price for Mussolini’s so called “benevolence!”