WIESBADEN, Germany - German and American youths got a better "UnderstandingG" of the role of the U.S. military in Germany during a visit to Clay Kaserne (formerly Wiesbaden Army Airfield) and Hainerberg Housing June 2-3.
The students from Wiesbaden High School, Frankfurt International School and Frankfurt's Gutenbergschule and Ziehenschule have been participating in a yearlong cooperative effort, known as UnderstandinG, between the city of Frankfurt, U.S. Consulate General and Grundstückgesellschaft Gateway Gardens GmbH (Gateway Gardens Property Management) to develop a lasting tribute to German-American friendship at the former Rhein Main Air Base Housing Area.
"We're really deeply engaged with the subject matter," said Steve Valk, project director, explaining that students have spent several weekends together learning about the history of German-American relations, hearing firsthand from subject matter experts such as famed Berlin Airlift pilot Gail Halvorsen and brainstorming about creative ways to convert a former guard house in Gateway Gardens into an enduring monument. "We've seen lots of images … learned about all that's transpired … and want to make something meaningful for the future."
As German-American Friendship Day nears in October, the project organizers will dedicate more time to working on the actual model of the proposed memorial, Valk said.
During the visit to the Wiesbaden military community the youths heard from local Soldiers about the mission of those stationed here and personal anecdotes about the ties that bind the two nations.
Among the highlights was a visit to an airfield hangar where students got an inside look at a C-12U Beechcraft Super King Air 200 and other aircraft, courtesy of members of the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment. 1st Lt. David Neill of the 1st of the 214th told the students about the role of military pilots and support crews during the walk across the installation to the hangar.
They also enjoyed a brunch at the Wiesbaden Dining Facility where Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, encouraged them to do whatever they can to reach out to others.
"Regardless of where you are in life, you can make a difference in someone else's life," Carstens told them, after sharing his background -- having a father born in Germany who emigrated to the United States before World War II. Carstens described how his father enlisted in the Army during the war, survived a sinking of his ship on the way across the Atlantic and after serving in various capacities during the war, eventually got a chance to use his German language ability as a debriefer at the Nuremberg Trials.
"As unique as that story is, it's one of hundreds of thousands of stories of people who have stood up" and made a difference -- who have reached out to the "American beacon of freedom," Carstens said.
"We've got all kinds of people who are serving, regardless of whether they are wearing a uniform of not," he said, pointing out to the group, which included several military youths, that all those who serve are appreciated. "We thank you for what you are doing."
Col. Tony Sarver and Col. Tim Whalen of 5th Signal Command also shared their expertise and personal reflections about the roles of the men and women in the U.S. military during the visit.
The final concept of the students' yearlong project will be unveiled Oct. 6 at Frankfurt's City Hall, project organizers said.