Today is the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a poignant moment and history and one I lived first hand. I thought I'd share some of my memories and excerpt from my book, "Destination: Berlin" with you today.
Where was I on 9 NOV 09? I was gradutating from MPI (Military Police Investiations) school in Ft. McCellan, AL. As the wall came down and East Germans danced on the wall, I was backing my bags and preparing to get on the plane for my 2nd tour of duty in Germany. I was 21, single, and ready for another great adventure in Europe.
My first tour of duty in Germany was from DEC 86 - DEC 88. I was an MP stationed in the Germany city of Muenster. There was 200 American and 10,000 Brits in Muenster. It was an hour away from the Netherlands border. In JUL 88, I went to Berlin on the Berlin Orientation Tour for winning Solider of the Quarter for my Battalion. It was a trip I will NEVER forget. I walked through the gates of Checkpoint Charlie and I saw the Berlin Wall up front and close.
Regan was President in the mid 1980's and Gorbachev was President of the USSR. With the USSR'S economy in ruins, Gorbachev steered his country toward a dignified end of the Cold War. In 1987, Ronald Regan dared Mr. Gorbachev to "Take down this wall." It was a speech of Regan's that even today, I remember.
What else happened during my first tour. Spandau Prison's last Nazi Prisioner, died. Remember Rudolph Hess. He died in 1987 and the prision was taken down.
On 10 NOV 09, I got a plane and landed in Frankfurt. I in-processed into the European theatre at the Rhein Main AFB (which I believed closed in 2004? 2005) and I was assigned as an MP to the headquarters element in Fulda in support of the 11th ACR. Fulda was one hour away from the old east/west German border. It was on the Fulda gap, the place where they thought the Russians would invade since the land consisted of gentle rolling hills.
I remember seeing Ladas and Travants flood the western autobahns. The Catherdal's parking lot in Fulda was packed for weeks. East Germans would honk and wave when they saw my American plated car in German. There was a lot of excitement in the air, a lot of good will.
Eventually, time erroded the good will feelings. Some are still there. But East Germany stagnated. There's been a lot to moderize the country, but even still some western Germans still look down on East Germans as lazy.
The good things? Germany is a nation again. It's WHOLE. It's complete. The German people are ONE. And that's a good THING. The capital is once again BERLIN and Berlin is a wonderful international city. It's a city that I visited a lot between 1990-1996. I haven't seen it in over 10 years, but I know it's WHOLE - it's one, it's healed. And despite the mild rumblings of displeasure, there's nothing better than for a nation to be WHOLE again.
Today, Hillary Clinton will join the Festival of Freedom at the Brandenburg gate, and the historian in me is thrilled to see this. I remember going to the Brandenburg Gate, newly cleaned and sharing a shot of Irish Coffee under the gate with my husband. It was a special moment for me, a moment I'll treasure, knowing the historical symbolism of the gate - freedom and it's hope.
The actual wall was built in 1961. It stayed alive for 28 years. Now it's been 20 years since it's death. Also celebrating with Clinton is Gorbachev, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicholas Sarczoy. I wish I could be there for this bit of history and rememberance.
The fall of the wall - let freedom ring in Europe!
He approached and motioned for them to kneel against the bushes, then he looked hard at her. Sharon could sense a change in his demeanor and it unnerved her.
“Corporal,” he said seriously, “I need for you to be totally and completely honest with me right now. Can you do that?”
“Of course,” Sharon answered. “What’s wrong?”
“Are you a courier? Do you have classified government documents with you? Documents the Stasi want?” asked Dimitri.
Sharon shook her head. “No,” she said slowly. “I told you in the dining car. I’m going to Berlin to attend the Orientation Tour.”
Dimitri stared hard at her for a moment. In the darkness, Sharon was sure she could detect him softening, but he asked again, “You have no secret documents on you?”
“No,” she repeated firmly. “What’s going on?”
“What’s in your briefcase?”
“My paperwork. Border crossing documentation.”
“Let me see it,” he said firmly.
“Why?” she said, her voice sounding calmer than she felt. “What are you expecting to find? Secret government documents?”
“I’m not lying to you, Jr. Sgt.”
Dimitri put his hand on hers and looked gently into her eyes. “I believe you. Please let me look. Our lives depend on it.”
“Look.” She gave him the briefcase, confident he would find nothing out of the ordinary.
He opened the case and read her border crossing documents, squinting in the firelight. Satisfied, he removed the entire contents and jiggled the bottom of the case. It began to move and then separated altogether from the case.
“It’s got a false bottom,” Sharon remarked, keeping her voice even and firm. She hoped it hid the trepidation she felt.
Dimitri extracted a folder. He recognized the top sheet, blue and with the word “Top Secret” printed on it.
She was stunned. What was going on, she wondered, her heart racing? Where had that file come from? She didn’t put it there. How did it get there and how did Dimitri know about it?