In March of 2006, my oldest son Daniel and I flew to Germany to join my husband at his first duty station. Daniel was just 18 months old and we had been waiting to join him for the past 4.5 months. It would have been longer but we decided to buy our own tickets and head over once the Command Sponsorship was done. They sent us our No fee passports about 6 weeks later.
I remember when we flew in. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to Europe before, I hadn’t even been out of the US unless you could mission trips to Mexico. We were tired and so ready to be back with Ben.
Ben met me at the airport and we took the train to Schweinfurt, our first duty station. I remember sitting there watching all the business people on their cell phones thinking, this is a lot like America. In some ways Germany is like America, in other ways it is completely different as I would soon learn.
We got back to our apartment which was a third floor stairwell apartment. We lived on Askren Manor which was the main housing area there. People also lived off post in government leased housing or in private housing. There was also a small section of housing on another part of the post.
The next day Ben had to work all day. I was suffering from jet lag and rather confused. I wanted to go exploring but I was a little scared to. I didn’t even know I could have walked to the Commissary. I felt silly about that.
Time passed. We got our household goods. We got our driver’s licences and Ben got orders for his first deployment. I also found out I was pregnant with Drew. I got pregnant the day we got there. This was right around the time that I started making some friends. Our FRG had a dinner a few weeks or maybe it was months before the deployment. I went and got to meet some of the other wives which was a very good thing. During the deployment we met for coffee on Mondays and did a lot of fun things together.
The deployment was long, 15 months. During that time I never left Schweinfurt other than going on a retreat to Garmich. I had Drew during the deployment and my family was able to come visit. My mom came for two months which was amazing. I got to experience two different hospitals. The first is where I gave birth to Drew and the second was where we spent almost a week when he came down with RSV at two months old.
Ben eventually came home and we spent a month in California with our families. I will always remember that trip and how nice that time was. We headed back to Germany the first week of January and I really didn’t want to go. I was kinda in a slump. I was annoyed that there was already talks of them deploying again. I didn’t like my apartment and I felt like if he did deploy then I would just go home.
But then one morning I woke up to the news that some of the brigade was moving to Grafenwoehr, two hours away. I told Ben I really want to go. We were able to. In May of 2008 we moved to a small village about 30 minutes from post called Erbendorf.
Anyway, Schweinfurt is now closed. The closing ceremony was last week. When I was there I remember hearing it would eventually happen but not for years and years. And now that time has come. It makes sense for the Army to close some of the posts in Germany. We don’t need them like we did in the past. So I get it. But it is weird to think that it will be closed and will be given back to the Germans. It is weird to think that little city will not have an US Army presence anymore. It is strange to think that if we ever go back and visit, it will be very different.
Although we moved to Graf and I was so happy about that, I will always have a place in my heart for Schweinfurt. It is where I learned to be an Army wife. It is where I figured out the Commissary, had our first experience with Military schools, found PWOC, made friends, figured out how to get through a deployment. It is where I learned about German culture, Euro and how my US life is just one way to live in this great big world of ours. It opened my eyes to things I never would have thought about before. It is also where I learned to be a Mom. Daniel was only 18 months old when we got there. In the two years that we were there he changed a lot. I think back to those years and Schweinfurt is a huge part of it.