Prost! to Oktoberfest
October 8, 2009
By Paul Bello
Belvoir's 14th annual celebration full of gemAfA1/4tlichkeit
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Fort Belvoir's 14th annual Oktoberfest celebration wrapped up Sunday - the same day as Military Appreciation Day.
The four-day event had all the trimmings of a traditional Oktoberfest, including a Volksmarch, live music, German foods, plenty of smiles and enough beer to satisfy one's palate.
Shaun Baylor, who lives in Alexandria, has attended Belvoir's celebration before and promised himself he wouldn't miss this year's. He came opening night with his wife, Jessica, and their 6 year-old daughter, Dana.
"It's always a good time. It's very relaxing and there are plenty of games and rides for kids to go on," Baylor said. "I look at it as a nice night out with the family. Free admission never hurts, either."
Jaleel Tate and Tyrese Lewis, students at nearby West Potomac High School, were also interested in what this year's carnival had to offer.
"We heard about it before, but never got around to going. So, we decided to check it out this year," Tate said. "It's nice to see games and things like that for people our age and younger. That's really cool."
At the event's kick off Thursday night, Installation Commander Col. Jerry Blixt and Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane welcomed members of the German Armed Forces Command, including Brig. Gen. Gero SchachthAfAPfer, commanding general for German Armed Forces in the U.S. and Canada, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Moeller, the command's senior NCO.
Before a crowd of nearly 100 people, all four stood together for the traditional "tapping of the kegs" - which officially opens the Oktoberfest celebration to the public. Happy to be participating in his first Oktoberfest at Belvoir, Berhane said the event means more than just having a good time.
"From our perspective, it's an opportunity to celebrate both the German and American armies," Berhane said. "We have a long-standing friendship and this is a time to enjoy our camaraderie together. It also gives us a chance to acknowledge the sacrifices of German and American Soldiers everywhere in the world."
Those feelings were shared by Schachthoefer. This year's Oktoberfest marked his last in America as he will soon return home to Germany.
"This is a sentimental moment where we can salute the flags of two great nations," Schachthoefer said. "We're always thinking about our servicemembers overseas and I know you'll join me in sending our prayers to those troops and their families."
During his closing remarks, Blixt thanked everyone for attending and highlighted the efforts of those associated with the installation's DFMWR, which coordinated and put everything together for this year's celebration.