Denver, Colorado –
The concentration camp liberation in 1945 freed an estimated 30,000 prisoners from unspeakable torture.
U.S. Army Cpl. (R) Sid Shafner, 94, is one of three concentration camp liberators flown to Europe by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces for a 10-day trip of a lifetime.
During the trip, Shafner visited some of the former concentration camps.
"They were difficult to see," he said.
His group made stops in Poland, visiting Auschwitz and a graveyard where hundreds of innocent children were shot and buried on the spot.
But while the trip had its painful points, Shafner said that it was also filled with joy in seeing his life-long friend, Marcel Levy.
Levy was 17 years old when Shafner and his fellow troops helped him escape from the Dachau death camp in Germany.
Shafner described the moments when the two men reunited at an Israeli Air Force base.
"He hugged me and kissed me," said Shafner, as his eyes welled up with tears. "And I hugged him and kissed him."
At the time of Levy's rescue, he was the only member of his family who survived the Holocaust. For that reason, Shafner invited Levy to join him as the troop's dishwasher, and Levy took him up on the offer.
"He was good at washing the dishes, I'll tell you that," said Shafner.
Levy presented Shafner with a plaque that read, "You came like a warrior angel … and carried me into the light."
Levy's next of kin said they were forever grateful to Shafner for saving Levy.
"We know (that) because of you, we have Marcel," said one family member. "Thank you very much. We really appreciate it, and we are very proud of you."
Shafner and those like him displayed personal courage, integrity and selfless service. They're shining examples of the foundation of the core values that our military hold to and strive to emulate today.