This bronze Alpine soldier stands ever vigilant near a mountain pass at Gressoney-St. Jean, in Val d’Aosta. Now traversed with ski trails, here are peaks that troops once climbed across at nightfall. Many never returning.
A plaque records their sacrifice in florid prose:
“These mountains shall crumble before the bravery of so much dead youth on foreign fields passes from memory.
For the glory of Italy.
May 1915-November 1918.”
Vittorio Emanuele III, the King of Italy from 1900-1946, sent Italian troops to two world wars.
Much loved during WWI, he was forced into exile after WWII.
Today Italy no longer has a king; Europe is now unified; and
this bust of the long-gone king presides–mostly overlooked–in a small square.
Today my boys, in red and black parkas, oblivious, pass by the monuments.
Their skis on their shoulders, they head for the lifts.
Behind them I pause, sensing the deep wells of other mothers’ sadness,
pooled at the fringes of the sun and snow and skiing.
And in the distance: the happy clank of the chairlift.
Carrying boys up to where mountaintops glisten.