the rock re-visited

sunrise over geissen 

I thought I would have a greater sense of nostalgia upon my return to the Rock, instead I was greeted with ambivalence and massive piles of rubble. 

March is the month of Founder’s Day in which West Point grads celebrate the founding of the United States Military Academy.  The closest Founder’s Day celebration to me was in Heidelberg Germany.  This, I thought, was extremely good fortune.  I could kill three birds with one stone.  I could meet my long time friend Jeremy whom I served with at the Rock, I could re-visit the place I lived for three years as a young 2nd lieutenant, and I could attend Founder’s Day.

Not to concerned with our carbon footprint, Ruth and I booked a couple of flights to Frankfurt-Hahn for 2p each round trip.  The plan was to fly into Hahn airport, rent a car, and drive an hour and half to Frankfurt, pick up Jeremy and his wife, and then continue on another hour to Geissen to bed down for the night and go in search of the Dead Beat.

Driving on the autobahn is a fantastic experience.  It’s nice to be able to drive at the limits of your skill and the car’s will to go fast.  Ok, I know driving at high speeds is not good for the environment, but speed is king.

After we got settled into our B&B, we drove to Neiderkleen in search of the Dead Beat which was the unofficial name of the restaurant all the officers in our battalion adopted as thee place to hang out and break bread together.  The real name of the restaurant was Molise.  How it came to be known as the Dead Beat is a lost legend.  It just became a tradition of the unit.  When a new officer joined the unit, us older officers would make part of his induction a meal at the Dead Beat.
But it seems the Dead Beat met its demise when 3/5 Cav closed the post down and moved to Freidberg.  The Molise as we knew it was gone. 

the dead beat

A new restaurant stood in its place.  We went inside to enquire about the Molise’s fate, but none of the locals admitted ever knowing any such restaurant ever existed.  We got the suspicion that maybe they were just saying that so as not to chase potential business away.  Not to be deterred, we asked a passer-by on the street if he knew of Molise.  He did.  He said it had closed down 6 years ago, and had moved elsewhere, but he didn’t remember where.

inside dead beat
We decided that although the name had changed on the outside, the spirit of the Dead Beat still lived on, so we eat at the new place and reminisced about the old times.

I couldn’t find my sense of the roads or make a connection with the place that had been my home for 3 years.  I thought coming back to the Rock would conjure up strong feelings of remembrance, but I just couldn’t feel anything for the place other than a vague familiarity. 

The next morning, we visited what used to be Ayers Kasserne or the Rock as we called it.  The Rock had been bought by a trucking company and basically turned into one huge parking lot with piles of rubble that were once the offices and barracks of 3/5 Cav.  We tried to bribe the civilian guard at the gate to let us come in and have a little wander as old soldiers who were once stationed here.  But he kindly explained to us that this was private property now and he couldn’t authorise a walk amongst the rubble.

outside the rock 

rubble 

We said our final farewell to the Rock.  I felt a chapter close on an historic period of my life.
The rest of the weekend was a bit of an anticlimax for me.  We drove down to Heidelberg for the Founder’s Day dinner.  The turn out was very small as most of the active duty officers assigned to Germany these days are deployed to Iraq. Still it was good to be in the company of old brothers in arms.  And it was good to get an update from the current Dean of Academics as to the state of affairs at West Point.  It appears the new generation of Cadets are up to some really great things.

It wouldn’t be a gathering of old Grads without at least one West Point Rocket cheer.  My table won a bottle of wine for the best rendition of the Rocket.

There was one hair rising moment.  It’s a tradition for us to pay homage to our fallen comrades.  When the adjutant read off the final roll call, I was awestruck at the number of young officers who have died in the Iraqi conflict.  A chill ran up my spine when the adjutant called out the name Guy Berrateri.

Guy was a personal friend of mine. I dedicate this post and the following song to him.


 

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