Leaders salute 1,295 years of service
April 17, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - They come from all walks of life and from all over the globe. Their mission -- to serve Soldiers and Families in the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
During a ceremony in the Community Activity Center March 23, garrison leaders paid tribute to the 1,295 combined years of service by those who have reached milestones in their careers ranging from five to 45 years of service.
"That is an incredible number of years that is being recognized," said Col. David Carstens, USAG Wiesbaden commander, adding, "I signed so many certificates that for two days my hand was sore.
"At my change of command I said that one doesn't need to wear a uniform to serve," he said, adding, "Everyone in here serves the Soldiers and Families who make up this community."
As several past 40-year honorees looked on from the audience, the command team began the length of service portion of the ceremony by inviting Gert Krei to the fore to celebrate his having reached the 45-year mark in his career with the U.S. military.
Krei, a member of USAG Wiesbaden's Directorate of Public Works, began his career on March 15, 1967, and plans to retire at the end of this month.
"I look back fondly on my time with the U.S. military. Although it has not always been easy -- there have been good times and bad times -- I am proud to have completed this number of years," said Krei, who also served on the local works council during his career.
"Every day was a highlight -- it was never boring. For that reason, I don't have so many hairs on my head," he said joking.
Krei said he first considered working for the U.S. military at age 19 when his civilian employer went out of business. "A friend of mine was a cook for the military and he told they were looking for electricians, so I applied."
Upon retirement Krei said he plans to spend more time with his two grandchildren and to move to Münsterland to "start a new life."
The DPW's Vebi Uzeirovski and Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation's Gaetano Vecchio were lauded for 40 years of service each.
Vecchio, who came to Germany after finishing school in his native home of Italy, said, "It has always been in my blood to help people."
Over the years, from his start working with the U.S. Air Force on Wiesbaden's Camp Lindsey through his current job at the Auto Skills Center on Mainz-Kastel, Vecchio said the thing he has liked best about his job is helping service members and their Families. "I've always liked working with the U.S. military because it's my family now. Forty years went by like one week."
Several U.S. and host nation employees were also recognized for having attained the 35-year milestone including Herbert Czermak, Victor DiMarzo, Maurice Herring, John Howe and David Prince.
DiMarzo looked back on a career that has come full circle -- from first serving as a young Airman at the Air Force Hospital in Wiesbaden in 1977 to his current position as the chief of the customer service branch for the garrison's Housing Office. While he spent a few years working in the United States from 2007 to 2008, the majority of his career has been spent in the Rhein-Main area with jobs in Frankfurt and Darmstadt before returning to Wiesbaden.
"My two kids were born and raised here. Wiesbaden has been very good to me," he said. "It's a great place to raise kids and still a great place in which to live -- and I'm gainfully employed in a job that I love."
DiMarzo, who coached youth basketball for 12 years, added that the "35 years have definitely flown by. I have no regrets. I wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way."
Among more than a dozen employees honored for their 30 years of service was the Directorate of Human Resources' Habtemicael Ghebrhiweat, whose Family was on hand to share in the celebration.
Originally from Eritrea, Ghebrhiweat started working in Wiesbaden after the U.S. Forces drew down in Frankfurt.
"It has been a great experience. I appreciate working for the U.S. military. You don't see that much discrimination compared to the Germans," he said. "If you want to cultivate yourself there are a lot of opportunities to better yourself."
In addition to years of service, the commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Prince also recognized several individuals with special awards for their "professionalism, loyalty and craftsmanship." These included Arne Curtis, Wilfried Peters, Sabine Schindler, Fred Proctor, Ana Cutler and Ramon Domenech.
Following the official portion of the ceremony, honorees and guests were invited to enjoy some time together, refreshments and a piece of celebratory cake, sliced by the longest serving garrison employees.