Retiree shares story of service to two nations
February 24, 2010
- Soldier reflects on military career before retiring
- Retiring officer shares his love for the Army
- Soldier has fond memories of his long and diverse military career
- Retiree proud of service to two nations
KAISERSLAUTERN,Germany - The light shines through the glass of a large window during a late afternoon reflecting off the many plaques, awards and gifts set on a table for one man with a distinguished career.
He is Lt. Col. Dieter Biedekarken, the inspector general of the U.S. Army Reserve's 7th Civil Support Command at Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern, Germany, who has served for more than 27 years in the American military.
The scene was set for his retirement ceremony, an event conducted to recognize his dedication to the military and nation. Although, Biedekarken does not officially retire until March 1, he submitted his terminal leave to prepare for his life after retirement.
The lieutenant colonel was presented the U.S. flag to honor him for his service. The colors were carefully folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat, symbolic of the hats worn by colonial Soldiers during the American War of Independence from 1775-1783.
This custom of special folding is reserved only for the U.S. flag. The folding ceremony is used to honor the flag on special days like Memorial Day or Veterans Day and is known to be used at retirement ceremonies.
Biedekarken, a native of Cologne, Germany, said he enjoyed his career because it involved people from all over the world.
"What I enjoyed the most in military life was the sense of camaraderie and closeness with my fellow Soldiers," Biedekarken said, a man with clear eyes and lifelines on his face showing humility and experience.
"I don't think you can ever find anything close to that in civilian life. The variety of different jobs that I had in the Army and the moving around the world made for a most interesting life."
His first significant assignment exposed him to many challenging but beneficial times, he said.
"My platoon was made up of the best tankers in Europe," Biedekarken said.
"I had literally interviewed and handpicked the 15 members of my platoon as we had been selected to participate in the Canadian Army Trophy Team competition.
This was at the time the most prestigious NATO tank shooting competition."
Then came the period when Saddam Hussein and his regime invaded Kuwait. He was ordered to deploy with his unit for the planned invasion of Iraq.
"I was deployed in Desert Storm as a tank platoon leader with the 2nd Armored Division (Forward) from Garlstedt, Germany," he said.
"The war prevented us from participating in the shooting match, but I still got to keep my hand-selected crews."
Later, Biedekarken came back to the land where he was born and didn't see war for more than a decade until he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 1st Armored Division Rear Operations Center out of Wiesbaden, Germany.
"I was the full-time Active Guard Reserve operations officer of the unit at the time," he said.
"Both experiences taught me how extraordinary situations really bring out the best in human beings. I feel extremely close to the people I served with."
Then, he moved up to serve as the deputy inspector general for the 7th Army Reserve Command, a headquarters element that recently transformed and activated as the 7th CSC in October 2008.
For the last year of his tour, he was the command's inspector general and, after serving for almost three decades, submitted his retirement paperwork.
"A Soldier retires. Such a simple statement," said Brig. Gen. Jimmie Jaye Wells, the commanding general of the 7th CSC and guest speaker of the retirement ceremony.
"Yet a lifetime of service to our country just passed.
As news of troop surges and massive movements of Soldiers become passAfA in our daily news, it's easy to lose sight of who 'troops' are. We're America's sons and daughters as well as from other countries."
"In the modest German town of Eggenfelden ... in 1955, Herr and Frau Biedekarken gave birth to a tiny boy who, 54 years later, would retire a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army," Wells said.
"What are the odds'"
The general said he felt privileged to have been a part of Biedekarken's retirement ceremony.
"It's captivating that both Germany and the U.S. gained immeasurably from the service of this son of two great nations," he said.
"While I was not there to see the beginning, I had the distinct honor to be there at the end of the fine career of Lt. Col. Dieter Biedekarken."
"At the end of a decade in which our Army has been on point for our nation it is also the end of a Soldier's career," Wells said.
"He like most of us is no hero. Yet he is an American Soldier with a unique story worth knowing.
It's touching and significantly an emotional event for everything we do especially for this circle of his life from birth here, and his civilian and military career in Germany."
Biedekarken is now living California where he has started working on his new life.
"I don't think it has really registered yet that I have more time now," he said.
"My wife and I have been extremely busy settling matters here in San Diego.
We do spend almost every waking minute together and we are still getting along.
Plus, we are enjoying immensely the wonderful weather and being able to be outdoors here in Southern California."
Biedekarken said if he had the opportunity he would tell first-term Soldiers to keep a positive outlook regardless of the situation.
"A military career with the right attitude can be the most rewarding time in your life with experiences that no civilian career could ever give you," Biedekarken said.
"And where else can you retire in your best years and still enjoy the rest of your life'"