Tag Archives: Schweinfurt

Somebody Cut His Mic Already!

Image stolen from 'schweinfurt und so'.

Image stolen from ‘schweinfurt und so’.

 

Yours truly will be hitting the podcast circuit (if circuit can be redefined to mean one show) this week!  On Wednesday, March 6th at 4:15 p.m. CET I’ll be in the ‘schweinfurt und so‘ studio fielding questions from Alex and Flo.  I’ll be talking about life in Germany, the American Soldiers Monument in Schweinfurt, social media and, knowing me, we’ll probably get around to discussing beer at some point.  The show will be in German, but I’ll throw out some funky idioms and metaphors in English where appropriate.

Oh yeah, and you can submit questions and comments as well.  Check out the ‘Live’ section of schweinfurtundso.de for more details.

Advertisements

A Monumental Tragedy

So I am finally back after a short hiatus in which I spent the holiday season and a couple of weeks thereafter eating, drinking and hibernating in a futile attempt to stave off the inevitable: returning to work.  Anyway, I have returned to the office and to the blog, and I have decided to break my blogging fast with a piece of news that diverges somewhat from the usual topics discussed here, but which has hit very close to home for me.

When I am not working, studying or blogging I find time to serve as Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10658 in Schweinfurt.  About six years ago this organization, an amazing collective of American combat veterans spanning a wide range of ages and conflicts, was forced to begin to come to grips with the fact that the US Army units and installations that have been here in Schweinfurt since the end of World War II would be closing in the foreseeable future.  It was then that the idea to erect a monument to the service and sacrifice of every Soldier who had been stationed or served in the city from 1946 onward began to take shape.  Four years later we learned that the base closure was coming sooner rather than later and the project to create the monument began in earnest.

Two local artists, Steff Bauer and Sören Ernst, were commissioned to design and create the monument.  The Schweinfurt VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary conducted a huge fundraising effort, raising the vast majority of the funds through private donations from individual donors, the city of Schweinfurt donated a plot of land, and a local construction firm donated time and resources to the monument’s installation.

Finally, on Veterans Day 2012, the American Soldiers Monument was dedicated in a small but proud ceremony.  In attendance was Sissy Borel, National Senior Vice-President of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary; Sebastian Remelé, Lord Mayor of Schweinfurt; LTC Michael Runey, Commander of US Army Garrison Schweinfurt; as well as a host of Veterans, past and present unit and garrison commanders, city officials, members of the media and, perhaps most importantly, the widows of several fallen American heroes.  It was as solemn occasion and every speech delivered that afternoon resonated with the themes of service, sacrifice, and the partnership and friendship of two great nations.

Sadly, just two months later, the pride that was felt on that day has been damaged.  Sometime between the evening of January 15th and the afternoon of January 16th vandals removed the head of the eagle, the national symbol of America and Germany, and made off with it.  The local police were notified; the investigation is ongoing.

I found it difficult to put into words how I felt after I found out about the vandalism.  Shock.  Anger.  Sadness.  I couldn’t sit still; I couldn’t focus on just one emotion.  Questions kept bouncing around in my skull.  Who would do this?  Why would someone do this?  What has it accomplished?  I spent most of the night somewhere between agitation and depression.

I awoke this morning to find that news of the event had begun to make its way around the regional media websites.  The local paper ran a story on the afternoon of the 16th.  The state police reported the attack on their website and provided a hotline for witnesses or individuals with information about the attack to report it; the state news agency reported on it as well.  Several smaller websites that feature local news and events also ran the report from the police website, including one which ran it under the headline, “Who would do something like this?”

This media brush fire, combined with the outpouring of shock, outrage and grief that we have received via email and commentary, has helped tremendously.  It has been heartening to read the messages of support from Veterans, Soldiers, family members, and everyone back in the United States who supported the project.  Additionally, the words that I have received and seen online from German friends and family and the citizens of Schweinfurt have been a welcome boost to morale.  It has been made clear that the desecration of a monument, a piece of art, a piece of this city, will not be tolerated.

This is not the end of the story.  Even now we are working on plans to repair the monument, likely a long and expensive process, and we will see it restored and back where it belongs.  While the symbol may have been defiled, the service, sacrifice, and friendship which it represents continues unabated.  The partnership and sense of community that has been forged over more than 60 years of peacetime cooperation cannot be destroyed so easily.


Becoming Not-Such-A-Stranger in a Not-So-Strange-Land

This entry will be a stark departure from the discussion of politics and culture to which I normally dedicate this blog.  Allow me to begin with a little bit of background on myself.  I was born and raised in the Great State of Ohio and joined the US Army upon graduation from high school. Afterwards I was sent to my first (and last) duty station in Schweinfurt, Germany.  Schweinfurt is a beautiful town nestled along the Main River in northern Bavaria (or, more accurately, Lower Franconia; Unn’r Frangg’n to the locals); the perfect mix of industry, culture, history, pomp and quirk.  I could not imagine living anywhere else, and so I have remained here for the past 11 years, first as a Soldier and now as a civilian employee of the Department of the Army.

But now the great tradition of military, economic and cultural partnership that has existed between the US Army units stationed here and the people and government of the city of Schweinfurt  that has been in place since the end of World War II is coming to an end.  For reasons both tactical and fiscal the US Army is shutting down its operation in this city, units will move to other locations in Germany or deactivate all together, and the barracks and facilities leased and operated by the US government will be locked up and turned over to our German hosts.

For many, this is no great disruptor.  Active duty personnel and most civilian employees will make their way to other bases in-country or back stateside.  The many German employees who have worked side-by-side with their American counterparts, some for decades now, will take advantage of the mechanisms already in place (or being put in place) to ease their transition either into retirement or back into the German workforce.  But there also exists a minority contingent of US citizens who have been here for some time and who wish to remain here long after the others have pulled up the stakes and gone home.  I am one of these, and in preparation for the inevitable departure of the rest of “little America,” a couple of friends and I took part in a 3 hour class hosted by the Schweinfurt Volkshochschule (literally “people’s high school,” essentially an adult education center run by the city) covering visa application, residency and citizenship.

The Volkshochschule website had advertised a maximum class size of 16 students for the course, prompting us to rush to enroll and pay our 9 euros before all of the available spots were snatched up.  It turns out that this expedience on our part was fully unnecessary, as only 6 students ended up enrolling.  Other than myself and my comrades (both of whom are American and have been here for 12 and 27 years, respectively) there was a young Brazilian woman with plans to marry her German sweetheart, and a 4th American who attended with his German spouse.  Additionally, instructors from the Volkhochschule‘s German language course for immigrants, the city’s immigration office and the Landratsamt (the office that handles most administrative services for the city) were present.

It turns out that having these “subject matter experts” on-hand was extremely beneficial.  The course instructor was a young attorney to whom I will from here on out refer as Herr Anwalt (get it?).  And while Herr Anwalt was extremely affable and quite  up on the legal aspects of immigrating to Germany, he was largely unprepared to answer specific questions concerning the nitty gritty of the application process, how applications are reviewed and what role each agency plays in the process, often deferring to the others in the room to the point where we, the students, began addressing questions directly to those individuals.  I am sure that this is not how the course was originally intended to be structured.

Herr Anwalt’s inexperience shone through again as he failed to take advantage of the small and relatively homogenized class that had been presented him.  Instead of seizing upon the opportunity to tailor his topics to few and largely unvaried specific cases in the classroom that night, he instead covered the spectrum of regulations and procedures for all categories of visas, residency permits and paths to citizenship.  As his students, would all have been better served with a more intense and narrower focus on issues and procedures related to our specific circumstances, something completely feasible considering the small class size and time allotted for the course.

These are, of course, minor complaints that can be attributed to Herr Anwalt’s inexperience in teaching this course and I am sure he will improve his style over time.  Overall I was very pleased with the structure of the course and the amount of information that I got out of it.  Herr Anwalt put together a great handout consisting of descriptions of and requirements for each of the visas, residency statuses, and paths to citizenship available; he created a class atmosphere that was comfortable and conducive to students asking questions and that facilitated discussion between the students, Herr Anwalt, and the other agency representatives; and he provided us with his contact information and seemed genuine when offering future assistance and advice.  Most importantly I think that every student walked away with more knowledge and a greater confidence in  their ability to navigate the murky waters of the German bureaucracy.  Kudos to the city of Schweinfurt, the Volkshochschule, and Herr Anwalt for lending a helping hand to a poor, needy immigrant from the shores of Lake Erie.

Finally, I created this post at the behest of a local blogger, podcaster, Twitterati, and all around cool guy, Florian Kohl.  If you are so inclined, check out his blog at FlorianKohl.de


Tacos and Dinosaurs

Pop Culture, Humor, and Random Awesomeness by Eric Malcolm

Dawg Pound Nation

Zero BS Cleveland Browns Blog.

USAG Bamberg

USAG Bamberg BLOG

The German Way & More

A Voice Made Of Snark And Slander

Oh God, My Wife Is German.

The Misadventures of an American Expat and His Wife in Germany

@I_amGermany

Rotation Curation for Germany

Break the Broken

Guilty pleasures broken down...

Socialist Currents

Socialist Currents is a publication of Social Democrats USA

Toward a Radical Center

For a Politics of neither the Left nor the Right

Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Socialist Currents

A Voice Made Of Snark And Slander

Closure 2014 Blog

Answering all your Closure 2014 questions

Diary of a Fat Girl

A Voice Made Of Snark And Slander

floriankohl.de

Just another WordPress weblog

Alex von Halem

A Voice Made Of Snark And Slander

@barockschloss

A Voice Made Of Snark And Slander

%d bloggers like this: