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Four-legged 'Santa' a savior during Battle of the Bulge

Published: Monday, December 18, 2017 @ 1:01 AM

World War II veteran Stan Saltz, 92, holds a photo of himself and a dog named Santa, which he found during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
Andres Leiva/Palm Beach Post
World War II veteran Stan Saltz, 92, holds a photo of himself and a dog named Santa, which he found during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.(Andres Leiva/Palm Beach Post)

Tucked between dollar bills, nestled next to a black-and-white photograph of his wife Gloria, Stan Saltz pulls out a second snapshot, the one of him as a 19-year-old Army private and survivor of the bloodiest battle in the second World War.

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But the photo isn’t about the Florida resident. It’s about the German shepherd, a four-legged member of the German Army who, by Saltz’s account, saved him and everyone in his squad as they fought Germans in subzero temperatures in the woods of Belgium.

Seventy-three years later, Saltz, now a Delray Beach retiree, still tears up over the picture of his buddy, the one he named Santa.

Sunday, Saltz was among friends who could relate, He and other survivors of the Battle of the Bulge gathered in West Palm Beach for the anniversary of the battle’s beginning on Dec. 16, 1944.

Their select group is shrinking rapidly as the generation ages. They were youngsters that December so long ago, but now Saltz is 92. The local events’ organizer, George Fisher, is 94.

This chapter of Battle of the Bulge veterans began in 1998 with 425 former soldiers. In a time when other chapters across the country are folding as survivors’ numbers dwindle. Florida’s Southeast Chapter stands as the nation’s vanguard with 123.

As Fisher likes to say, “Many of us may not remember what we had for lunch, but we will never forget the 10 below zero, the snow and the horrors of frontline infantry combat.”

On Dec. 16, 1944, three German armies began what would be their last major offensive campaign on the Western Front. Adolf Hitler intended to split the Allied armies in northwest Europe by a surprise push through the Ardennes Forest.

Saltz walked 27 miles with the Army’s 75th Infantry, enticed to continue with the promise of a truck down the road that never materialized. They arrived on Christmas Eve, in time for Saltz to relieve a soldier in what was left of the 106th.

“He gave me a hug and took off. Didn’t even tell me where ‘Jerry’ was,” Saltz recalled. “Must’ve been maybe a half hour later. I’m in the foxhole. And I heard this – “ at this point, Saltz makes a low, quiet growl.

Saltz got up for a look and found a German police dog that didn’t seem long for this world.

“He was bloodied up by his master. His tongue was hanging out. His eyes were glazing over,” Saltz said. 

Saltz brought the dog into the foxhole with him, gave him water, fed him K-rations and named him Santa. “He lapped it up and never left my side,” he said.

Not only did Santa stick around. He also alerted Saltz every time a German soldier was nearby. He wouldn’t make a sound, but he would tug on Saltz’s pant leg. “He was very smart.”

“He could smell a German half a mile away,” Saltz said. “Everyone wanted to go on patrol with Saltz. Why? Because Santa was there.”

When Saltz was hit by shrapnel above his right eye and rushed down the hill for medical care, Santa went with and didn’t even let the nurse near the man until Saltz told Santa to sit and stay while she stitched him up. They both promptly returned to the front line.

Against all odds, the Allies held the line at a steep price: 81,000 American casualties including 19,000 dead. But none were from Saltz’s squad.

“My life and my squad were saved by a German Army police dog,” Saltz said.

The Battle of the Bulge ended on Jan. 25, 1945. And shortly after, Saltz, still bandaged at his temple, and Santa posed for a photo.

Saltz says God sent Santa to him that Christmas Eve, and he was gone just as abruptly by February or March, hopping off a train full of troops to do his business on solid ground. The train then headed out without him.

“We cried for a week,” Saltz said.

In another breath, Saltz will tell you that same year he became an atheist “when I saw Dachau.”

Saltz came home. Married Gloria who stayed with him until she died 67 years later. He went on to work in the food service industry. The couple had two children and four grandchildren, but no dogs. 

“Nobody could replace (Santa),” he said.

Deployed troops will be able to watch NFL playoff games

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 8:42 AM
Updated: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 10:03 AM

What You Need to Know: Government Shutdown

UPDATE, 10:03 a.m. 1/21/2018: Despite the shutdown of the United States government early Saturday, the NFL announced Sunday morning that the Armed Forces Network will  air the AFC and NFC Championship games.

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The NFL also said it is providing free access to the games via NFL Game Pass to all USO centers.

Meanwhile, Congress is back at work Sunday, attempting to create a deal to end the shutdown. 

ORIGINAL STORY: As a result of lawmakers failing to resolve a standoff over immigration and spending, the United States government has been shut down indefinitely – meaning everyone has been affected, including troops overseas.

>> Watch the news report here

There is a lot of fallout from the shutdown. From government employees who aren't being paid, including the Defense Department, to the Armed Forces Network being taken off the air, the effects of a standstill government can be felt across the board.

Since the AFN has been taken off the air, that means many of our troops overseas won't be able to watch the NFL playoffs Sunday

Surely it's not the biggest issue surrounding a government shutdown, but it's a big morale issue. 

>> Trump campaign ad calls Democrats 'complicit' in killings by undocumented immigrants

Watching the Patriots on the Armed Forces Network has been a comforting piece of home for army Sgt. Matt Connolly, who's serving in South Korea.

"It's kind of the only thing we can do for fun over here," Connolly told WFXT.

For the first time since he's been stationed in Korea, his family came to visit him for the AFC Championship game.

"I'm actually on leave right now. My family from Boston is here right now and we were looking forward to watching the game," Connolly said.

With no one to run it, AFN is off the air. 

>> John Legend blames Trump for government shutdown, calls him racist

The NFL says it is providing free access to Sunday's Championships via the NFL Game Pass to all USO centers.

"No matter what, I'm going to watch them," Connolly said.

Sen. Ed Markey says he's in a holding pattern right now as he says he and most of his colleagues are preparing to negotiate through the night – but it's still unclear if that will be an option.

Immigration issues are at the center of the shutdown. Many Republicans don't want to negotiate on those issues until a spending bill is passed and the government re-opens.

However, those immigration issues – including the DREAMERS Act – are a priority for many Democrats. 

Markey told WFXT that he believes everyone needs to continue working to find some sort of compromise, and he wants President Donald Trump to take the lead.

"Bill Belichick is telling the New England Patriots for tomorrow, 'Do your job,' and we are saying to President Trump for tomorrow, 'Do your job, Mr. President. Make sure that the funding is there for our troops. Make sure that our defense is taken care of, but make sure that we also protect child health and the Dreamers,' but thus far he's been unwilling to do his job," Markey said.

Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 7:48 AM

13 Siblings Held Captive In California "House of Horrors"

David and Louise Turpin are facing a string of charges, including torture, after police say the couple kept their 13 children locked away in subhuman conditions in their Perris, California, home. On Thursday, the Turpins made their first court appearance.

>> Watch the video here

>> On Rare.us: Here’s what the children in the California torture house did to cope with the alleged abuse

David Turpin appeared in chains, wearing a lavender shirt and black jacket while his wife sat nearby, also in chains and a black jacket. The Turpins entered not guilty pleas to all of the charges, some of which date back to 2010. The district attorney says the couple is facing 94 years to life in prison if convicted on all counts.

>> Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

During the arraignment, the Turpins were quiet and spoke only to say they acknowledged their right to a speedy preliminary hearing, CBS reports. They will appear in court again on Feb. 23, and their bail was set at $13 million.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a press conference, “As a prosecutor, there are cases that stick with you, that will haunt you. Sometimes, in this business, we’re faced with looking at human depravity, and that’s what we’re looking at here.”

Authorities said the parents were able to keep their children hidden away by listing their home as a private school. Some of the kids, who ranged in ages from 2 to 29, reportedly didn’t know what a police officer was.

The children were only allowed to eat once a day and shower twice a year, authorities said. However, the parents reportedly did allow them to keep journals, and authorities said the kids filled hundreds of notebooks. Those have not been released and are still being reviewed by law enforcement.

The children are currently being cared for in the hospital, authorities said. The Riverside University Health System has set up a fund for the children that will go to their long-term needs, according to a press release. The hospital said the children have already seen a tremendous outpouring of support.

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Brian Rokos of the Press-Enterprise was present at the hearing and reported that David Turpin is being represented by a public defender, while Louise Turpin has outside counsel. During Thursday’s arraignment, the public defender requested that media be banned from the trial, but the judge shot that down. Rokos said reporters from around the world were in the courtroom. The Turpins' lawyers have not announced whether they will try to have the case moved out of Riverside County.

Filing taxes? Here's how a government shutdown impacts the process

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 9:23 AM

What You Need to Know: Government Shutdown

Millions of Americans are ready to file their 1040s when the tax season opens Jan. 29 , but will the Internal Revenue service be open to process them? And how long will it take to get a refund?

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When Congress failed to agree on a funding bill early Saturday, the U.S. government officially ran out of money for the fiscal year and shut down, triggering furloughs for “non-essential” employees.

That could impact the more than 155 million individual tax returns that the IRS is expected to receive in 2018.

The IRS will keep about 43.5 percent of its employees -- 35,076 -- on the job, CNN reported. According to Forbes magazine, the IRS has a contingency plan to operate during a government shutdown.

>> Government shutdown: What will close

The plan says that “If the IRS is confronted by a lapse in appropriations during the 2018 Tax Filing Season, the IRS will need to continue return processing activities to the extent necessary to protect Government property, which includes tax revenue, and maintain the integrity of the federal tax collection process, along with certain other activities authorized under the Anti-Deficiency Act.”

Fine, fine. But what about those refunds?

Here’s what will -- and won’t -- happen:

  • There will be no refunds issued

  • There will be no audits or examinations, although there may be some exceptions

  • There will be no processing of non-disaster relief transcripts

  • Forms such as 1040X or amended returns will not be processed

  • There will be no non-automated collections

According to Forbes, here are some functions that will continue:

  • E-filing

  • Mailing of tax forms

  • Call centers, which will remain open during filing season (more than 10,000 customers service representatives will handle telephone calls)

  • Processing returns that include payments

  • Appeals

  • Civil and criminal tax cases

  • Active criminal investigations

  • The IRS website, IRS.gov;

  • More than 3,000 IT-related workers will remain on the job

This is a contingency plan, of course. The last time the government shut down in 2013, everything closed, including customer service and call centers, Forbes reported.

And what about the Republican tax cut bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last month? Tax experts said that a lengthy shutdown could complicate the challenge the IRS faces in implementing the new guidelines, The Washington Post reported.

Several congressmen will donate pay during shutdown

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 11:34 AM

Several Congressmen Donating Pay During Government Shutdown

Led by Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, several members of Congress asked for their pay to be withheld during the government shutdown, CNN reported.

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“I don't think it's right for me to get paid during a government shutdown while my constituents are being furloughed and important and necessary services are being limited or halted all together,” Delaney, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It's time to be responsible and come together on a bipartisan deal to fund the government.”

Delaney makes $174,000 annually, which is the base salary for members of Congress. According to Delaney’s spokesman, Will McDonald, Delaney will donate his pay to the Mercy Health Clinic in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It is the same clinic where he donated his salary during the 2013 government shutdown, CNN reported.

>> Government shutdown: What’s closed

Republican Reps. Rick Allen of Georgia and Mia Love of Utah tweeted Saturday that they also would not accept pay during the shutdown.

Allen said in a tweet that he plans to donate the withheld pay.