WIESBADEN, Germany - A point of stalemate still serves as a reminder to German and American officials that "liberty cannot be taken for granted."
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A West German guard tower stands erect behind a preserved fence at Point Alpha outside the city of Fulda. A few hundred feet away beyond the fence is an East German guard tower.
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Positioned like dueling chess pieces on a site poised for war, the towers gave Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, V Corps and VII Corps reason to pause.
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"Coming out and looking at that fence and that East German guard tower ... it does get very emotional for us," said Brig. Gen. Michael A. Ryan, V Corps deputy commanding general.
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Ryan's words came just one hour after a March 31 ceremonial flag retreat commemorating the 20th anniversary of the last U.S. Army patrol along the border of former East and West Germany.
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"Point Alpha is more important for what didn't happen here than what did (happen)," said Greg Delawie, deputy chief of mission in Germany for the U.S. Embassy. "World War III never happened. Point Alpha was a site where history was made and not made. ... The function (of Point Alpha) was never to stop an invasion by the Warsaw Pact, but to sound the alarm."
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For the U.S. Army Soldiers who served four to six weeks at a time patrolling Point Alpha during the more than four decades of the Cold War, the idea of sounding the alarm permeated every crevice of the patrol site.
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"There is no other place where the role of America in protecting Germany is better explained," said Ryan.
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Preserved today as a memorial and museum, Point Alpha "is more important in its message to the young people who will follow us," said retired Gen. John Abrams, who served as commander of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the time of the last patrol.
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"We are very proud of what you have been able to accomplish," said Abrams to the attending German citizens and officials.
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Maintained by the Point Alpha Foundation, the memorial is "a testament to the historic achievement of the Americans in defending freedom on the former border, and thus the contribution to the reunification of Germany," according to the Point Alpha Memorial brochure.
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Point Alpha coordinators plan to host an annual German-American Day celebration every March 31 to commemorate not only the last patrol but the German-American relationships spawned from the site.
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"Friends from the U.S. we are very proud and happy to say that we are friends," said Dr. Wolfgang Hamberger, chairman of the Point Alpha Foundation, as he spoke to the large gathering of German citizens and American Soldiers from across U.S. Army Europe, including representatives from U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
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"Thank you," he said. "You made it possible that the reunification of Germany could happen."
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Page last updated Tue April 27th, 2010 at 11:45