After boarding the C-5 transport plane along with the other sick and injured soldiers and Marines during the late night/early morning (https://truegeorge.com/2016/10/17/exit/) at Ballad Air Force base in Iraq; the flight took 5 hours before it landed at Ramstein Air Force base in Germany. The buses were waiting for us to load up and be taken to the military hospital in Landsthal. When we got off the bus a big relief came over me; it felt good to be out of the war zone and in the relative safety of Europe. Now there are no concerns about being shot at or being a victim of an improvised explosive device (IED). Looking at the surroundings it was kind of interesting to see that there were guard sentry booths manned by armed German Soldiers around the Hospital’s perimeter.
So now the sick and injured Soldiers, Marines and Airmen who were carried out on stretchers were taken were they need to go. The ones who could stand and walk had to go to the lobby and wait for a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) to be briefed. It wasn’t long before the NCO came out with her assistant. She had everyone’s medical record with her which she gave out as she was checking off names for accountability. The briefing was a formality where we were taken around the Hospital and shown the various areas so that we would not get lost in the Hospital when we were turned lose to go to the respective areas to deal with our medical and physical issues.
Now out of the crowd of the sick there was one other person who had thyroid problems. Both of us ended up in the same wing. I go in to see the Doctor, she was a full bird Colonel. I thought to myself, that every Doctor I see walking around are full bird Colonels. Maybe that rank is given to them so that no one will challenge a field grade officer’s order just in case some dick of a First sergeant or Company Commander feel that they should move to revoke a medivac order like my dick of a First sergeant tried to do with me.
Now that I’m with the Doctor, she asked me for my medical records. I had a folder and in that folder, was just one piece of paper with my name, rank and social security number. I gave it to the Doctor. She was surprised and a bit upset when she saw that the so called medical records was just a piece of paper. She said, “what is this? They’ve given me two weeks to evaluate your condition and how the hell am I going to do that without your medical records. She was pissed Then she said “I guess I have to start from scratch. “ I was sent to get a sonogram of my thyroid, and when I returned to her office, she took a sample from the thyroid so that a biopsy can be done. She said it is going to be at least a week before getting back the results; then she made an appointment so that I can return to hear the verdict. So now that I was finished with the Doctor I went over to where the bags were stacked. When I got outside into the cool October weather, it has been a while since I was in Europe, but I remember what the weather was like. When we left Iraq in the dead of night the weather was around 70 to 75 degrees, and when we arrived in Germany the weather was around 40 to 45 degrees. There was a slight drizzle and you could see the carbon monoxide when you exhaled. So I dug in my bag and pulled out my field jacket with the cold weather liner that I packed since I had a general idea of how the weather would be. Unlike most of the personal that was on the transport.
So now my fellow sick and injured Soldiers, Marines and Airmen boarded the shuttle bus to the medical transition unit barracks. You see there are four U.S military communities in the area; Landsthal medical center, Ramstein AFB, Vogelwech AFB and the Kleber barracks. All located in the vicinity of Kaiserslautern (K-town). Once you’re on those installations it is considered American soil. The atmosphere on the bases was an extension of the U.S. As mentioned the German Army has sentries on the perimeter of Landsthal, but for the other three installations the entrance/gates were guarded by contracted civilian armed security companies. The procedure of every vehicle checked and everyone must have some type of I.D before they could enter the installations.
The shuttle bus took us to the Kleber barracks. We assembled in the day room for another briefing. While waiting for the briefing the Marines had a care NCO who gave the Marines members information. The Marines had their own set up and it looks like their support system was more organized then the rest of the branches. All personal was given a $250.00 voucher and was told to buy civilian clothes because the U.S gov’t did not want military personal walking around off base in uniform to be a potential target for some fanatic.
After personal were assigned to their bunks everyone was told that their priority is to make the morning formation and to keep their medical appointments. Then everyone was cut loose to do whatever they wanted to do. The first thing was to get to the Post Exchange (PX) and to get out of uniform. So it was back to Ramstein AFB to the large Post Exchange (PX).
On this first day of some sort of freedom from the ills of war True_George became acquainted with one of the guys Spec J from the 1/186 FA of the Vermont National Guard the other artillery unit that had their pre-deployment training at Fort Dix during the same time my unit the 1/258 FA was there. It was the 1/186 that took True_George from Baghdad International Airport (BIOP) to the Green Zone and Spec J was on the same convoy. Spec J knew how to say something in German; we had a little fun baiting some German women. He would say what he knows in German and the German women responded with a whole heap of words in German that both of us had no clue of what they were saying. I guess some women are the same, you say one thing in their language and they just cluck, cluck away like chickens. They clucked away in German until they realized that we had no clue of what they were saying. We all laughed when they discovered that we can’t speak German. But the good thing about Germany is that everyone you run into whether it was in a store, taxi driver, or some random person on the street they knew how to speak English. I guess it is attribute to the German School system to make sure their citizens can speak more than one language.
Later that night most of the personal that heard about a club in K-Town that is frequented by military person is going to be jumping, so we decided to hang out there for the night. It was a nice place, they had a bar area and another large area which served as the dance floor. There was a mixed patronage of local, tourists and military. Well now I get to sample some of the German beer, which was another benefit of freedom. All they had in Iraq was non-alcoholic beer and I have not had a drop of real beer for the past seven months. So now you have a bunch of military personal blowing off steam wetting the whistle with some real alcohol.
It was pretty good, that night I got to know some of my fellow Soldiers and got to know some civilians. There was an attempt to set myself to get with one of those available women but was cocked blocked by a Marine with a broken arm. Looks like he is claiming ownership to this piece of ass which I could have locked her down; wasn’t keen on fighting, I’ve had enough fighting. I especially refused to fight over a woman when they are a dime a dozen.
A bunch of us climbed in a Taxi that we could make it in time for the morning formation. I didn’t see Spec J, we thought he left earlier. It was strange that he was not present for the morning formation either. Later that day I caught up with Spec J; he said that he was so fucked up that he passed out in the bathroom. He was there until one of the club’s employees came into the bath room to clean it after the club closed. He said, they tossed him out; but he found his way back to the barracks. Only, he knows how he did it.
Later on during the day me, Spec J two other soldiers and a Marine decided to hang out and visit a place that Germany is famous for; that place was a red house. What we may call a whore house here in the U.S which is illegal; in Germany it is legal and the sex workers are registered and have a health card. These locations are subtly located around the city. You know what they are because they have a red light in the window. Also along the road to Ramstein there are mobile red light vehicles which were small RV’s. I guess that’s for the independent whores. Anyway, when we got to the Red house and went inside; to my surprise the lady in charge was an older lady from the Dominican Republic (DR). The women that inhabited the Red house were from the DR and Brazil. Not that I didn’t mind, because these are the type of women I mostly end up being with back home in New York City. Here in Germany I expected to see woman of different ethnicity. After all you got to mix it up once in a while. But, I felt it was a shame that economics have taken these women to leave their homes from the DR and Brazil all the way to Germany just to be a sex worker; maybe their families don’t know what they do for a living. Well, there is no need to detail what took place in the Red House; but it was worth the Euros.
By the fourth day the rest of the group depending on their medical condition were either sent back to the U.S for medical treatment or sent back to their units in Iraq. So now I was by myself. During the day I went to the Western Union to collect some money that I asked my family to send me so that I can do some shopping and to continue to live it up while I am here. Then I thought I just saw another member of the 258 and it look like Sgt. Brown. I called out, “yo Brown,” he looked back, yes it is indeed him. I’ve known Sgt. Brown since joining the unit. Back at that time he was the youngest Sargent in the unit. But now years later, he is still a Sargent. He had a turbulent history with the unit. He got married, left the unit for a couple of years, divorced and rejoined the unit. He wasn’t back for long when he decided he didn’t want to be in any more. He wrote a four page paper detailing why he wanted to leave the unit and gave it to the Unit Administrator who granted his request and discharged him. When the 9/11 (https://truegeorge.com/2015/09/17/911-circus-at-ground-zero/) event took place and the unit members started to be assigned to guard sensitive areas and the deployment to West Point ( https://truegeorge.com/2015/09/25/working-vacation/) Brown decided he wanted to be part of the action, and convinced the Unit administration to take him back for the duration of his contract just in time for the deployment to Iraq.
So now he has been medivac out. He said that he broke his jaw. It was evident because the swelling made the side of his face appear twice as large. I wondered if he crashed the vehicle, but he told me that Spec. Louis punched him in the face and broke his jaw. What! You mean to tell me that you picked a fight with someone who was about to become a professional Boxer. Spec. Louis have a string of armature boxing matches and he was on the verge of making his professional debut; but the deployment to Iraq put his plans on hold. It was laughable that of all the people in the unit and there are some unit members that will piss you off. He had to fight someone who was going to be a Professional Boxer. Perhaps he deserved to be punched in the face. Word is that Louis didn’t face any consequences for punching Brown an NCO in the face. I wondered what Brown had done to provoke it. Brown wasn’t telling. In any event I was glad to have a battle buddy with me.
Another group of Soldiers came in to pass through the medical unit. We kind of hit it off with them and we hung out in the club. I tried to get friendly with S. She is from Texas and she was beautiful I wanted to get to know her a bit more. So, we spent most of the time together getting to know each other. But, things did not progress as I wanted them too. So, I didn’t get far enough, she was guarded. To breakdown that guard would have taken a bit more time and time was against me so I was a bit impatient more then what I would be under normal conditions. Well at least we’re hanging out, but it wasn’t enough for me. Then I spot these two females sitting together. I told Brown to go over and speak to them. Brown went and said they weren’t game. So after I left S and I went over to them with one of the guys Spec. B to speak to them and to see how far we can get with them. When we went to them we found out that they were from Brazil. One spoke no English, only Brazilian and Spanish; the other spoke English. I dealt with the one who could speak only Brazilian and Spanish since I could speak Spanish. Spec. B dealt with the one who could speak English.
It was getting late and most of the soldiers were leaving to go back to the barracks. Me and Spec B set up a date to meet the Brazilians later that week. Before we left this random dude a local came and brought everyone a shot of tequila. Then everyone jumped in the cab and left. The two Brazilians were in the cab with us.
Spec. B had to have some type of surgery the following day and it was the end of the week so I had to see the Doctor concerning the results of my biopsy. When I got to the office I saw the other soldier with the thyroid problems. She was crying and I asked her what is the matter? She said that the Doctors said that what they found on her thyroid they found the same thing in her lungs. I kind of some empathy for her but I wasn’t surprised because every time I saw her around she was smoking like a chimney; she has a battle on her hands; I hope she won. I go into the Doctor’s office to hear my verdict. The Doctor said that the biopsy was inconclusive. So she is recommending me to be sent back to Fort Dix for medical treatment. The news was bitter sweet. I’m official out of Iraq, but I may have to pay a price for the early departure.
Two days after Spec B’s surgery we called the Brazilians for the date. They gave us an address and we go look for them. It was a street on a hill. At the bottom of the hill there was a bar. We went in the bar to wait for the Brazilians. In the bar I got to talking to a woman from Ethiopia. She was down to earth. I said it’s too bad that we’re waiting for the Brazilians because I liked this Ethiopian woman.
So we leave the bar and the Brazilians were waiting for us but the one who couldn’t speak English told me in Spanish that she could not go anywhere because her child’s father a German man didn’t want to babysit their child. Then she went on to say that she doesn’t have enough food to feed the child and if I could take her to the commissary at Vogelwech and buy her some food. But there is a supermarket a couple of blocks away. I asked why you don’t just go to the supermarket down the street. She said that her child does not like the taste of German bread. What! I’m like bread is bread what is the difference? But on a whole does she seriously think I’m going to take her into the commissary at Vogelwech and use my money to buy another man’s child food…
Then too my surprise I saw the same dude that brought everyone the shot of tequila before we left the club the night we met these women. I saw him get out of his car and was walking to a building. I don’t know if he saw me, but when I saw him the light bulbs went off in my head. I said to Spec. B, “yo, look; there’s the nigger from the club; it’s a set up. Fuck this; let’s get out of here.” My thoughts were that we are being set up to get robbed and we may have to fight off some motherfuckers. So we decided to back away and return to the corner bar which did not have any customers in at the time and call the taxi man.
The Taxi came within ten minutes; we got in the left the area. It’s ironic that the Taxi-driver was a black American who stayed in Germany after his enlistment in the Army was up. He said there was nothing for him in the U.S. I told him what took place, and he said that the area where we were was government housing area and that the Brazilian woman probable married the German man so that she could gain residence status and stay in Germany. He also said that those particular women always get soldiers to take them to the commissary and but stuff for them. I asked him what is the difference between American bread and German bread. He said that American bread is sweeter.
I was like dam; they have the same kind of scam that is going on back in New York City. Immigrants marrying citizens for residence status; getting public assistance and food stamps and residing in gov’t funded housing. The only difference is that the German public housing is much nicer then the American public housing aka Projects. To top that off the Brazilian woman even hinted she would give up some pussy if we were to buy the stuff they wanted from the commissary. Even though getting the pussy was a goal I was so disgusted when that suggestion of spending my money to feed another man’s child came out of her mouth I wouldn’t touch her even if I was paid. It’s a lucky thing that I’m from New York and I know a con when I see it.
It’s been two weeks and my time in Germany was over. The military issued me a plane ticket on a commercial airline from Frankfurt International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport. Once I got Philadelphia I was supposed to get on the shuttle van that the gov’t contracted to transport soldiers from the Airport to Fort Dix, New Jersey. But I found that out after the fact. Instead I rented a car and drove to Fort Dix; but it was the weekend and in processing in the medical hold over Company only took place during the week. Since I had the rental I took the trip back to New York City for the weekend.
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Hello True George,
Thank you for opening up and sharing part of your life with us, even though I was not even there, those pictures and your descriptions brought back memories or the feeling of moments frozen in time; photographs can be very helpful for saving moments in time like that.
Some of your photographs made me laugh, you seem to be good at taking photographs in a way that is a bit comedic and happy. 😀
I am also impressed with how well some people I know from German and in Germany can speak English just from what they were taught in school, I wish that I would have been taught another language that well when I was in school, I think that every country should try to each their citizens at least one other language even if it is only a type of sign language.
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Thanks there were more photos but I could not find them. I did not have a digital camera, so I didn’t take as much pictures as others who had a digital camera.
It was impressive that everyone spoke English as well as they spoke German. In NYC they only teach a second language in private or prep schools, not in public schools….. I would love to return to Germany is is a clean and beautiful. I will one day
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You are welcome True George, while it is unfortunate that you could not find the other photographs and that you did not have a digital camera back then, I still think that you did a good job and you took more photographs than I would have.
I wish that I had more photographs from the past and would take more photographs of the present for memory sake because many of us start to forget things as we get older, and not only can photographs save some of those memories but they can also help bring back memories and share pieces of memories with others in a way that they can see instead of just hear.
I am disappointed to hear that the second language education in public schools was / is not that good in New York City either, but you were at least still fortunate enough to get to learn Spanish and some Patois and to be exposed to more speakers of other languages than I was.
I hope that you will get to return to Germany one day, my online contact in Germany once shared some beautiful images of several locations there, and the temperatures were definitely cooler than where I live.
Thank you for responding,
You have the look of a guy that had a mighty thirst. Enjoy those beers.
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yeah..after 7 months without beer I was like a desert