HOHENFELS, Germany -- When Debra Brooks arrived in Hohenfels six weeks ago, she felt isolated and alone, but after losing an $1,100 mountain bike, she found herself part of a caring community.
An avid bicycler on temporary assignment here, Brooks rented a bike from Outdoor Recreation both for exercise and as her main means of transportation during her stay. The arrangement worked well until the day she pedaled across the training area to attend a Volksfest in Schmidmuehlen.
"It was a beautiful day and a nice ride," said Brooks, but on the way home the weather took a sudden turn.
"It started to get a little dark, and I'm in the middle of nowhere when the lightning starts," she said.
A resident of Oregon, Brooks is no stranger to rain, but this intense storm downed trees and wreaked havoc in the surrounding villages.
"I had water gushing out of my shoes," Brooks said.
Fortunately, a passerby stopped and offered her a ride. The car was too small to pack in the bike, and Brooks was reluctant to leave it.
"He was like, 'leave it, we'll come back, you're going to get hit by lightning,'" said Brooks.
Thoroughly drenched, Brooks returned home, changed clothes, and borrowed a colleague's car to return for the bike. Though she returned within the hour, the bike was gone.
"It all looks the same out there, but I remember the bird house and what side of the street it was on," Brooks said. "I looked for about an hour and it was just gone."
Brooks later learned that in the meantime, concerned community members had called the military police and the fire department, advising them that there was a bike on the side of the road and that someone may have been hurt in the storm.
"So they were looking for me," she said.
The next day she filed a police report and contacted ODR.
"Everybody told me, 'Don't worry, you're going to get it back, somebody picked it up and they'll just bring it in,'" said Brooks.
However, a week went by with no news.
Brooks met Ralph Williams, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, chief of plans and operations. He put her in touch with the public affairs office and ads were placed on the garrison's Facebook page and the community weekly newsletter.
"When she told me the story, I just figured someone was passing by, saw the bike and picked it up to secure it," Williams said. "The Hohenfels Military Community is a great place with great people who are always willing to assist and look out for one another. She just didn't know the venues to get the word out."
Meanwhile, Shaw attended the Hallo Hohenfels class offered by the Relocation Readiness Program. While touring Building 100, she heard a presentation by Dan Hoeh, ITACSS (Instrumentation Training Analysis Computer Simulation and Support) director.
"During the briefing, I always try and brag up the community, and I told them if they like bike riding, there are a lot of great trails in the area," said Hoeh.
Recognizing another avid bicyclist, who happened to have access to video of the training area, Brooks approached Hoeh and told him her story.
"He's kind of a quiet guy, and he asked me some questions about my bike and then was like, 'OK,'" said Brooks. "Dan knew all the units that had been out there at that time."
Hoeh contacted ODR for a picture of the bike and circulated the image among the observer/controller teams and the civilians on the battlefield that had been in the area.
"The next day, ODR called and said, 'I think we have your bike,'" said Brooks.
Sgt. 1st Class Kirk M. Weaver said he had seen the bike lying half on the road and thought the bike may have fallen off of someone's vehicle.
"I just popped it in the back of my vehicle. I knew somebody was going to be looking for it," he said.
Being on rotation, Weaver missed the first meeting where the missing bicycle was mentioned, but heard it later at another meeting.
"I'm like, yeah, that's in my garage," he said.
Brooks said she was really moved by how everyone she met really reached out and tried to help her, from the person who gave her a lift in the storm to Hoeh, Weaver and everyone in between.
"I went from feeling so unfortunate, to hey, I'd like to move here," Brooks said. "I feel like I'm part of the community, like the people here have really embraced me, and I'm wishing I didn't have to leave."
Weaver shrugged off any "good Samaritan" labels, though.
"It's just what we do," he said.