An Italian woman celebrated her 90th birthday with a special gift from the US Army — a cake to replace the one American soldiers ate when they entered her hometown during World War II.
Meri Mion wiped away tears Thursday as she was presented with the cake during a ceremony in Vicenza, northwest of Venice, a day before she turned 90.
The celebration at the Salvi Gardens marked the anniversary of the day the 88th Infantry Division fought its way into the city on April 28, 1945.
Mion was 13 years old when the troops came to the nearby village of San Pietro in Gù and she spent the night hiding with her mother in their farm’s attic, according to the US Army.
Germans retreated as they fired shots — memories that haunted Mion for years. Several US tanks were destroyed and at least 19 soldiers killed.
When she awoke the next morning, her mom prepared a birthday cake for her and placed it on the window sill to cool.
But the victorious troops — who had already been cheered by locals who presented them with wine and bread — helped themselves to the girl’s cake.
Col. Matthew Gomlak, commander of US Army Garrison Italy, said her “happiness turned into disappointment later when the resourceful American soldiers made off with her birthday cake.”
But after all these years, the US Army finally gave the nonagenarian a cake to replace the one she never got to eat.
Sgt. Peter Wallis, a military police Soldier from Seabeck, Washington, presented it to the overwhelmed woman as Italian soldiers, police officers, military vets from both countries and many local residents stood by.
“It was a little awkward, but it makes me feel great to give her the cake,” Wallis said.
Mion seemed very surprised by the gesture as she was serenaded by rousing renditions of “Happy Birthday” in English and Italian.
“Mamma mia” and “grazie,” she said.
“Tomorrow, we will eat that dessert, with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget,” Mion said.