German Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jörg Vollmer bid farewell to Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, by granting him the highest German military ceremony Aug. 10.
Hodges was welcomed at Schloss Biebrich in Wiesbaden, Germany, a baroque residence from the 18th century, serving as venue for the evening ceremonial named "Grand Tattoo," which was performed by the German Rapid Forces Division, as well as the Military Music Corps from Ulm, and the Bundeswehr Music Corps marching band from Siegburg, Germany.
The honorable tradition of the Grand Tattoo dates back to the early 19th century, holding a unique and prominent position in German military music. Amongst other things, it entails a serenade of three compositions, chosen by the honoree.
Intended to bid farewell and to honor individual personalities, especially German leading politicians, such as chancellors and federal presidents, the Grand Tattoo holds great significance, which Hodges described as "a highlight of my current assignment, my career, and my entire life."
His first two music choices, the "March of the Hessian Guard Infantry Regiment No. 115" and the "Marche du soldats de Robert Bruce," complemented the third piece of music seamlessly, which was a German pop song called "Auf uns" ("To us").
"A cheer to what unites us, [...] to the moment that will always remain," the German pop song states.
During the reception with an international audience, Hodges gave his acceptance speech completely in German. He referred to the strong connection between the U.S. and Germany as "the most important partnership on the globe," while focusing on multi-nationality as "key for our success."
Before the evening ceremony, Hodges was awarded the "Hessian Order of Merit" by Hessian State Secretary Ingmar Jung, on behalf of Hessian Prime Minister Volker Bouffier.