A lone trumpet player from the 1st Armored Division Band plays the German version of taps.
The somber, mournful notes of “Der Gute Kamerad (The Good Comrade)” sum up the theme of Sunday’s Volkstrauertag, or German Day of Mourning, ceremony at Fort Bliss.
About 200 German and U.S. soldiers and civilian dignitaries gathered at Fort Bliss National Cemetery to observe the German version of Memorial Day.
Fallen soldiers are quietly honored, but the holiday also remembers the victims of war, tyranny, oppression and terrorism.
It is also a call for all nations of the world to work together and make sure that the mistakes of World War II are never repeated, said Lt. Col. Henri Neubert, deputy commander for the German air force’s Air Defense Center at Fort Bliss.
“Be smart, work together and find a way to promote democracy, promote the freedom of the people, so everyone can live together in a peaceful world,” said Neubert during a short interview before the ceremony.
Similar ceremonies were held all over the world Sunday – in big cities and small towns in Germany and anywhere the Germans have a military presence, consulate or embassy.
The main ceremony was held in Berlin at the Reichstag, the home of the German Parliament. French President Emmanuel Macron was the guest speaker.
Macron delivered a powerful message that the leaders after World War II had the strength and courage “to shake hands,” seek reconciliation instead of punishment and created a postwar Europe that has seen more than 70 years of peace.
It’s a message that the nations of the world should remember today and live by, Neubert said.
The Germans have had a military presence at Fort Bliss since 1956, just 11 short years after the end of World War II.
“Who would have thought that the United States of America and Germany could ever become friends after the horrifying events of the first half of the last century?” Neubert said during his speech.
“We – German soldiers and our families – are welcomed and hosted like friends (at Fort Bliss), as if nothing had happened bad,” Neubert said. “We are a great example not only for reconciliation but for forgiveness, confidence, sympathy and friendship.”
“Today, we work and fight together for a better and safer future for our common world,” Neubert said.
The horrors of World War II – including the Holocaust – cannot and must not ever happen again, Neubert added.
“Such things can only happen if you close your eyes to the lessons of history,” he said.
The ceremony included quiet reflective music by the 1st Armored Division’s Ambassador Brass team.Spc. Isidoro Ramos played solo trumpet on “Der Gute Kamerad.”
Dignitaries who were present included: Maj. Gen. Patrick Matlock, the commanding general for the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss; Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager, the commanding general for Joint Task Force North; Sgt. Maj. Aaron McDonald, the senior enlisted leader for JTF North; and Lance Lehr, the former 1st Armored Division command sergeant major who is now retired.
Spc. Colin Murray, a tuba player with the 1st Armored Division Band, said it was a “great honor” to play during the ceremony.
Participating in this event shows the close relationship between Fort Bliss and the German contingent at the installation, he added.
David Burge is a news producer at ABC-7 in El Paso. He has more than 30 years of experience working for newspapers in California, New Mexico and Texas. Covering the military is a particular passion.
Author – David Burge/Special for the El Paso Herald-Post | Photographer – Steven Cottingham El Paso Herald-Post