AAAA Family Forum / By Dailah Cole: “Mein Frau im Würzburg geboren” is often one of the first things my husband shares when we meet local nationals (Germans). It is one of the few phrases he knows – it means, “My wife was born in Würzburg.”
Senior level 12th CAB Family Readiness Group leaders met for a road trip “in the middle” in Würzburg, Germany. L to R: Evelyn Smith (12th CAB), Tia Morris (1-3 ARB), author Dailah Cole (12th CAB), Suzanne Scherrer (12th CAB), Evelyn Santos (12th CAB), and Kristen Fair (1-214 GSAB). / TAPS COURTESY PHOTO
I was born in the 1970’s, while my father was stationed here, but we left for the U.S. shortly afterwards. I was just two years old and didn’t return to Germany until I was in college, which involved a month-long German language study. It was my last time in Germany, and so, my husband and I share with the locals that it has been a dream of a lifetime to return and be stationed here.
Being a family stationed in Germany is often different from what one would expect and getting this overseas assignment will conjure many different feelings for families. Amazing opportunities and unexpected challenges are part of the package. We want this short story to be a personal and funny review of what our family has experienced here.
Any Army family knows the drill. An RFO (Request for Orders) arrives and planning begins. The family is heading to Europe! For some it is a dream of a lifetime; for others, it can be unfamiliar and intimidating, maybe scary. The language barrier, being far away from family, and the expense of an overseas move are some of the known challenges, but the thrill of being able to explore Europe and enjoy the varied cultures provides additional excitement to it all.
The Army has dramatically downsized in Europe, which affords many opportunities to meet new challenges for families. It means traveling for sports an hour or two every weekend for younger kids, and upwards of 5 hours for the older kids. It means maybe no piano or dance lessons offered in the area. But, the children often have the opportunity to play in sports competitions with locals, and gain exposure to German traditional dances and music at local festivals.
With many Army units being spread across different bases hours apart, in order to create a cohesive family readiness group (FRG) means emails, phone calls, and often more road trips! Travel is part of the family and work routines. So, interestingly, Würzburg comes back into play – our senior level FRG leaders did a “meet-in-the middle” road trip to get to know one another. We went to Würzburg!
Lucky for us, the town is about half way between the two senior command posts. It is a beautiful old German city on the River Mainz. (For some of our more senior readers, they might remember that the U.S. military had a large base in the area. It was closed in 2009 as part of the downsizing in Europe.) We picked a day that worked for all of us and, with travel coffee mugs and water bottles in hand, we left our respective garrisons early in the morning and headed to Würzburg. We met at Würzburg’s historic bridge, toured the “Altstadt” (Old town), ate a traditional lunch of schnitzel and pommes (french fries!) and made it back just in time to pick up the kids from school.
On other occasions, we make use of video teleconferencing (VTC), or use group chats on our phones. Though our different units cannot meet regularly, we can honestly make the most out of our dislocation and have great FRGs days.
Did I mention the grocery shopping? What an experience. There are several German grocery chains, some of which are in America: Aldi and Lidl. The stores here are not just viewed as discount chains. The produce is fresh, warm baguettes can be purchased out of a “bakery vending machine” and new seasonal items and goodies change out weekly. The only drawback is in checking out. There are no free bags, no baggers and no area to bag and no time to waste. Often there is a line of customers watching and impatiently waiting. All the groceries go straight into personal totes or back into the cart. It feels like a silly kitchen game show, but I enjoy the challenge every single time!
The amazing opportunities to be so close to historic, world famous cities, and all that they have to offer cannot be ignored. Local morale, welfare, and recreation offices (MWRs) always have trips planned, and exposing families to different cultures has positive lasting impacts.
This quote from Mark Twain struck a special chord for me: “Travel is fatal
to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, … Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
It is an honor to be stationed in Germany. We get to serve as American ambassadors every day in our own way. “Mein Frau im Würzburg geboren” has become something of a refrain around here, and our German friends and colleagues always smile and often laugh when they hear my husband say it.
We learn how to navigate new situations. We gain insights to new cultures, learn different perspectives, try new foods, and I even get to visit my birthplace! Whether it is a dream or a challenge, and probably a combination of both, a tour overseas will not be exactly what one expects, but can be so much more.
Dailah Cole is the FRG Advisor and spouse of COL Ken Cole, commander of 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, Katterbach Germany. The Coles have four children.