POINT ALPHA, Germany -- Approximately 400 Soldiers, civilians and political figures attended a special event here, April 24, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the last patrol at Point Alpha, which was a key strategic point that separated West Germany and East Germany up until the end of the Cold War.

Attendees included Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of Army Europe, John B. Emerson, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Lucia Puttrich, the Hessen State Minister for European and Federal Affairs, German Navy Vice Adm. Heinrich Lange, Director of Forces Policy for the German Ministry of Defense, and Volker Bausch, Director of the Point Alpha Foundation.

The history of this landmark is unique. The observation post overlooked a section of the Fulda Gap, the most likely point of entry into Western Germany for the Warsaw Pact forces if actual warfare broke out.

According to retired Soldiers who were stationed here, Soldiers from both sides would spend hours simply watching each other while on guard duty in the towers, only a few hundred meters separating them.

Occasionally, East German citizens would make a run for West Germany, only to be stopped within meters of the border by buried mines or other East German tactics.

"I was 18 years old and this is where I came right after basic," said Starling Cooper, a Soldier who was stationed here in the late 70s. "We did something that was important and that a lot of people didn't get to do."

The event started with a special moment to remember those who sacrificed their lives during the struggle here. In military tradition, a group of five retirees previously stationed at Point Alpha took down the old American flag and replaced it with a new one.

Soon after, political and military figures spoke about the importance of the site, highlighting many of the historical aspects of how the world might be different today if not for the post, as well as the importance of NATO and the alliance.

"As one of the first and last permanent observation posts on the inner German border that defined the cold war, observation Post Alpha is a vivid symbol of the importance that the United Stats is long attached to a strong trans-Atlantic relationship," Emerson said.

"Your efforts helped our children to grow up in peace and security and democracy and set the foundation for a prosperous Europe," Hodges said, speaking to the many veterans in the audience who were stationed here. "Close cooperation with allies was the key to success during the Cold War and is key to solving our challenges today."

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