VILSECK, Germany – The Vilseck German-American Kontakt Club celebrated their annual Thanksgiving dinner at Rose Barracks, Nov. 19. During the celebration, cultures were combined and German-American ties were strengthened.
As an initiative to strengthen friendship and partnership, German-American Kontakt Clubs were opened throughout Germany in 1979, including clubs at Grafenwoehr and Vilseck. Nowadays they are the last two of their kind and together currently have around 220 members.
Since its founding, members of the Vilseck Kontakt Club celebrate Thanksgiving together each year. Members and friends are invited to feast together and enjoy a traditional American Thanksgiving meal as well as typical German dishes. All dishes are homecooked by members of the club.
“Thanksgiving is the most important family celebration in the USA, since our club is meant to create friendship, and as we are one large family it is up most important to celebrate this event,” said Daniel Koenig, member and honorary president of the Vilseck German-American Kontakt Club. “In addition, it fosters cultural awareness and understanding.”
Special guests to the event, U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria Commander, Col. Kevin Poole and his wife Patricia; Vilseck mayor Hans-Martin Schertl; and Tesan Dusan from the Military Car Club Pilsen kicked off the festivities with club leadership Wolfgang Glowania and Jürgen Ullrich by cutting the turkey.
“It is important for us to have a German-American outreach club because the relationships and the partnerships that are forged between us and our German partners will always be long-lasting,” said Poole. “What helps this is for us to show our traditions like Thanksgiving, one of our most honored traditions where we take time and reflect and be thankful for all the good things we have in our lives. And that’s something we feel is important to share with our host nation partners.”
This year around 60 people came together to celebrate. After dinner guests could enjoy themselves playing table soccer or just have a nice time conversing with friends or meeting new people. There was also a playroom where children could enjoy toys and make international friends.
Staff Sgt. Deandre Barber, one of the American participants, enjoyed the welcoming people, and the loving environment.
“The event was full of laughter and joy,” said Barber. “I think that we need this connect to explore our connection with the community as a whole and not just because we are NATO allies. We can help each other in many ways.”
“The club gives Soldiers and the German Community a safe location to interact with others in a comfortable setting,” said American guest Sgt. Roslyn Espiritu. “Both parties want to learn more and more about each other's cultures and this event was a perfect way of doing that.”
Moving to another country is exciting and full of opportunities. While one goal of the club is to foster relations and bring understanding about each other’s cultures they try to help and support Soldiers on their journey in another country as well.
“We want to make their stay here easier, and we want to make them feel welcomed,” said Alexander Presley, German participant of the Thanksgiving celebrations.
“We want them to feel like Bavaria is another home away from home and help them to overcome struggles they might have while stationed overseas,” added Koenig.
While only the Vilseck club celebrates an annual Thanksgiving dinner, both the Vilseck and Grafenwoehr clubs offer many opportunities throughout the year to exchange culture, make memories and long-lasting friendships.
If you are interested in joining one of the two Kontakt Clubs reach out to the USAG Bavaria Publics Affairs Office:
- ☎ COM (011 49) (0) 9641-70-526-2007, -2002, -2004, -2005
- ☎ DSN (314) 526-2007, -2002, -2004, -2005
Pictures of the event can be viewed here.