Monday, January 29, 2007

Behind The Wall

I added another album to my Flickr photostream and posted a few images to it.

The album is Berlin, October 1977. The photos in that album have deep meaning to me. It was that temporary assignment I went on that shaped the rest of my life. I was considering getting out of the Air Force at that time. I had six months left on my assignment to Aviano AB, Italy and six months left on my contracted service. But then Berlin came along.

The first day I was in then West Berlin for a newspaper editors conference. Myself and the group of Air Force journalists I was with wanted to go see The Wall. We contacted the person who put the conference together and he agreed to show us Checkpoint Charlie and The Wall.

When we arrived there, I spent a good 30 minutes on a platform looking into East Berlin. I watched the ongoing activity of repair to the wall and some of the traps designed to keep East Berliners inside "The Worker's Paradise." After a while, I left the stand and was walking near a small museum dedicated to those who had escaped or attempted to escape the confines of the east and made it to the west. As I stood in the middle of the street looking towards the Allied control point (the famous Checkpoint Charlie) in front of me and border crossing maze further in the distance, an elderly German man walked up to me.

With tears in his eyes, he grabbed my right hand with both of his, and in formal German, thanked me. I looked into his eyes and saw a person who was glad I was who I was and where I was. It was at that exact moment that I decided I would remain in the Air Force. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't leave the Air Force until "The Wall" came down.

Twelve years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, I watched with tears in my eyes, as Germans from both sides of the wall embraced and partied together. I watched the scenes on television all night long. I watched, because I knew my reason for doing what I was doing was no longer a valid reason.

Two years after that, I retired from the U.S. Air Force.

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