Skip to main content

One of the very rare snow and fog free days in Wildflecken.
On December 13th, 1985 I arrived at Rhein-Main Airbase in Frankfurt, West Germany. Jet lagged and homesick I sat in the replacement depot all day waiting for my name to be called for my duty assignment. The hours took what seemed to be days. Around me I heard discussions of different posts from the guys who had been through this before.

"You don't won't to go to Wildflecken, there is nothing to do there."
"You don't want to go to the 54th Engineers, they are in the field all the time."

Finally I heard, "Andersen! Your orders are ready. You are going to Wildflecken, 54th Engineer Battalion."

My heart sank, this was the place everyone was saying that you didn't want to go to.

I climbed aboard the bus bound for Wildflecken. Not knowing where I was going the trip seemed to take forever. It began to snow and I noticed that we were on a constant incline. The roads twisted and turned, having never been to the mountains I had no idea that these winding, narrow roads were normal.

Higher and higher we climbed. Heavy fog surrounded the bus and I could barely see the side of the road. My seatmate told and I exchanged idle chit-chat, he was stationed at Wildflecken and was on his way back from leave. He told me that the 54th wasn't bad, just hope you don't end up in Delta Company.

The bus stopped and the driver in his thick German accent announced that we had arrived at our destination. I gathered my duffel bag and looked around. It was cold and so foggy that I could not see my hand in front of my face. The bus pulled away - I had no idea where to go. Finally someone walked by and I asked where the 54th was. He pointed and said up the hill.

I gathered my duffel bag and started my trek through the fog up the cobblestone road. I finally arrived at HHC (Headquarters and Headquarters Company) 54th Engineer Battalion and signed in. While I was waiting for the OD (Officer of the Day) to tell me which company I would be assigned to I struck up a conversation with the PFC (Private First Class) who was on CQ (Charge of Quarters) duty. He said that I just didn't want to go to Delta Company because the were in the field all of the time. The OD arrived and assigned me to Delta Company.

The CQ came over from Delta to get me, Sgt. Casey (Who would eventually become my squad leader). He said, "Delta isn't so bad, as long as you stay out of 3rd Platoon, between the field and border duty you are out all the time." Once at Delta Company I met with the XO (Executive Officer), 1st Lt. Burnham (Who I would end up serving with again in the 101st Airborne), and he assigned me to 3rd Platoon.

Sgt. Casey then took me to my barracks room and he told me that 3rd Platoon was on border duty and would be back on the 30th. He told me what time to report to formation and where the mess hall was and then I was alone for the first time in my life. The coming days were filled with paperwork, me being assigned all of my equipment, my rifle, squaring away my wall locker and all kinds of make work duties to keep me busy.

It was now Christmas Eve and the entire platoon was still at the border. There was no one in the barracks. I decided to call home. I strolled down to the rec center to the pay phones. I stood in line and waited my turn. When a phone opened up I went in to call home, I pulled out by phone card that my dad gave me that was supposed to be good for international calls. It wasn't. I could not figure out how to use the phone to call home. I asked the guy in line behind me and he told me that I needed about 100 marks (about $40 then) in 5 mark pieces for a fifteen minute call home. Nothing on post was open where I could exchange my American money for German money. I dejectedly walked back up the hill.

For the rest of the evening and the next day I had never felt so lonely at anytime in my life. Being thousands of miles away from home for the first time on Christmas was possibly the worst day of my life. Things did eventually get better and I eventually went out on border duty. Being in 3rd Platoon of Delta Company wasn't so bad.

While this is a story about my first Christmas away from home this is a scene that is repeated almost every Christmas on every military base. Please remember those who are serving on distant shores this Christmas.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site