Even though I am deployed to Europe and away from my daughters, there are certainly some benefits to being in a different country, mostly being the international cuisine and travel. As stated before, I am prioritizing saving for my daughters’ college savings account over spending money to better enjoy Eastern Europe, but that does not mean I have completely stayed on base. After going to Greece in October, I have had two more opportunities to get out and see a little more of Europe on the Army’s dime.
In early February, I was selected to attend a Senior Intelligence Officer conference in Wiesbaden, Germany. While I had duties to attend to during the day, my nights were spent wandering around Wiesbaden and Mainz looking for food for me and trinkets for my daughters.
I have never had any desire to be stationed in Germany, but this trip completely changed that opinion. Germany is just beautiful, the people are friendly, and the food is fantastic. I know that I only saw a small part of it, but if the rest of the country is half as amazing, then it would be a great opportunity to visit or get stationed here in the future. Immediately upon arrival, I was around town looking for some great local food (I ended up going with shawarma).
On the second day, while my co-worker had to attend an additional meeting, I conducted a tour of the local bakeries in Wiesbaden. A few pretzels, vanilla Berliners, and various types of bread later, I was a happy camper taste-testing all that the area had to offer. I was expecting a lot from German bakeries and they certainly lived up to my dreams. We went out to dinner that evening at a local German pub, and I took a chance, ordering something random off the menu. The entree ended up being meatloaf and spaetzle, which was just amazing, so sometimes being adventurous works out.
After getting out of work early on my final day in town (leadership wanted us to experience a little of Germany), I toured the Wiesbaden area once again before my co-worker and I headed over to Mainz. I found a nice little Parisian café, sitting down for an expresso and lemon tart. Perfect.
I also found a more upscale German bakery, where I spent a lot more time perusing the pastries. I ended up talking and laughing with the German woman helping me, which was really nice. Still not time to get back on the horse, but baby steps are definitely a good thing. Maybe one day.
Our quick trip across the river to Mainz was equally amazing, as my co-worker and I walked around for about two hours just taking in the sights. We decided on eating Greek food, and the moussaka was just as amazing as I would have expected in Athens. Excellent trip with some excellent food.
Earlier this month, I also got the opportunity to attend the latest 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Battlefield Staff Ride. Staff Rides are contracted or self-guided tours that military personnel attend to learn and discuss battles and events of historical significance; earlier this year, elements of the Division attended staff rides in Bastogne, Belgium (about the Battle of the Bulge, in which the Division played a critical role) and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland (concentration and extermination camps during World War II). While I unfortunately missed the opportunity to go on the trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, I was able to attend the latest staff ride to learn about and walk the ground of the Battles of Marasti, Marasesti, and Oituz that occurred during World War I.
While not diving too much into a history lesson, the battles were between Romanian and Russian Armies against the German Army in Eastern Romania during the Summer and Fall of 1917. They were Romanian victories that led to an armistice between the three armies that ended the fighting in Romania (until the day before the final armistice of the war).
While learning about the battles, including walking and analyzing the ground that they were fought on, we visited three mausoleums that housed Romanian Soldiers from the engagements, as well as unidentified Romanian, Russian, and German Soldiers. Sometimes it can be very difficult to understand the true cost of war based on numbers alone, but seeing the losses, including the skeletons in the crypts, in person helps to truly acknowledge how terrible a conflict World War I was for all parties involved.
One of our stops was a German military cemetery in Tisita, Romania. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a sadder location that I have visited in my entire life. This was a neglected cemetery, from a lost battle, in a forgotten theater of a lost war. German troops, likely proudly serving their country at the time, lost their lives and are buried far away from their family and relatives, mostly forgotten by their countrymen and women. It makes me sad, and as someone in the Army, I shudder to think this could happen to me. My apologies for getting too deep and serious, but it certainly makes you think.
And that is what a lot of these staff rides are for. While we are learning about military history, tactics, and terrain analysis, it does make you ponder your place, actions, and legacy in this truly gigantic world. It makes you understand what motivated the Soldiers at the time, and in turn, what motivates Soldiers today. As we closed out our third battlefield in three days (even finding some live rounds that were over a hundred years old), it helped to put some perspective of why the battles were fought, how they fought them, and what it meant to the armies that were present.
And any time that you get to interact with the Romanian population, it is a win in my book. As we waved back to wide-eyed schoolchildren, it was good to know that they seemed genuinely happy to have us here, which I cannot say was always the case in some of the United States’ last endeavors. Their government and people appreciate our presence, and the Romanian Army and ours are both stronger together. I am proud to be here and proud to support Romania.
Even though I do not travel as much as my friends and family would like, at least I am getting out there a little bit. Considering that, at this rate, I probably would never have traveled to Romania, Greece, or Germany in my life (let alone Bulgaria or Poland), it is probably not a bad thing that I was deployed to Eastern Europe instead of back to the sandbox. Having said that, I am really excited to get home next month and get back to my niñas, where I belong.
Thanks for checking in on us.
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