WIESBADEN, Germany - Hessen Minister President Volker Bouffier recognized German and American Soldiers and civilians for their lifesaving actions, community service and efforts to promote German-American relations during the 54th annual Hessentag celebration in Bensheim June 14.

"You all did a service that we will recognize today," said the Hessen leader. "Thank you not only for what you do in your daily jobs, but what you do that goes beyond that."

Bouffier said it was crucial to take time during the 10-day showcase of culture, trade and traditions to recognize those who reside in the state and go above and beyond to help make Hessen a better place in which to reside."It is important that we honor you here in the middle of this festival in showcasing all that Hessen has to offer. You belong where the people are," Bouffier said.

Among the many individuals singled out for recognition by the minister president; German Brig. Gen. Eckart Klink, commander of the Hessen Landeskommando; Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., U.S. Army Europe commander; U.S. Consul General Kevin Milas and other military and civilian leaders, were seven U.S. civilians and one Soldier from 5th Signal Command, American Forces Network, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe and U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.

James Boeger and Mark Ardy, with 5th Signal Command's Regional Cyber Center Europe, were recognized for their actions during an Autobahn bus accident in March. After a bus driver lost control of the bus he was driving due to illness and crashed, Ardy and Boeger quickly came to the aid of their fellow passengers helping them to safety. Once the passengers were out of harm's way, the two attempted to free the bus driver who was trapped in his seat. Failing to do so, they remained with him, despite the possibility of the bus overturning, until help arrived and the driver was taken to a hospital in Darmstadt.

Sgt. Danny S. Tuggle of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Signal Command, received accolades from the gathered officials for his volunteer work in coaching American football to German youths. Tuggle mentored youths ages 12-18 in Langen Knights football team and donated football equipment to support the team.

Jaye O'Neal of 5th Signal Command's 102nd Signal Battalion was singled out for his efforts to provide an annual German-American friendship event for the past seven years including games music and food.

Vincent Carlucci, a well-known supporter of U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's Combat Sports Program and a member of the 102nd Signal Battalion, was honored for his role in nurturing martial arts through seminars, tournaments, clinics and instruction. Carlucci, a black belt, established Team-Choco, a nonprofit international martial arts competition team with chapters around the world dedicated to assisting the military and civilian communities in the art of self-defense and combat sports preparation.

AFN-Wiesbaden's Gary Bautell was recognized for his longtime support and promotion of German-American friendship. Bautell, who has been the president of the Federation of German-American Clubs for the past four years, and is a familiar voice to AFN listeners from his time as a Soldier and civilian broadcaster, has been highly influential in increasing American awareness and understanding of German life and culture.

USAG Wiesbaden's Steven Eclavea, with Wiesbaden's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, was noted for his many events supporting wounded warriors, discouraging drunk driving and bringing toys and friendship to young cancer patients at Mainz University. Eclavea has also promoted German-American friendship and understanding by leading groups of BOSS members to various cultural and sporting events throughout Germany.

The Herald Union's own Donald Seltzer, volksmarch editor and a longtime teacher with DoDDS-Europe in Darmstadt, Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern, was lauded for his more than 20-year effort to encourage Americans to get out and explore Germany by joining their German neighbors on local volksmarch trails. Seltzer has donated thousands of volunteer hours researching, networking, corresponding and writing columns for the Herald Union, About Town and the Stars and Stripes about the many opportunities available in and around Germany.

During the ceremony, Hessen Minister President Bouffier thanked the Bundeswehr and U.S. military for their service. "You brought us freedom and liberty … thank you to the American Forces."

Members of 5th Signal Command's 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion from Grafenwöhr joined their Bundeswehr counterparts throughout Hessentage in offering visitors a look at the equipment and gear used by the German and U.S. military forces.

"We didn't know what to expect, but it's been a great experience," said Sgt. Bradley Coates, 44th ESB. "Everyone has been bonding with the German people and the Bundeswehr has shown real hospitality."