BERLIN — For decades, Germany shied away from celebrating its military, ashamed of the jingoism that helped spark two world wars. But as thousands of the country’s troops return home from Afghanistan, many here are saying that old ghosts are causing new neglect.
One fix, Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said this month, would be to bring back a veterans day, a commemoration that Germany shunned after World War II. The suggestion is a major departure for a country where, until recently, officials did not call the conflict in Afghanistan a war or refer to “fallen soldiers,” fearful of stirring swastika-studded memories. But soldiers themselves say far more is needed.
On my most recent foray into Afghanistan I had the privilege of working directly with German Soldiers. They like most soldiers go about their jobs in a quiet manner. Daily doing what needs to be done waiting to return home. While their command saw the mission in Afghanistan a bit different than many within the American command I found them quite competent and very aware of the constraints they were working under.
One of our co-worker Germans seemed a bit wistful as he watched the American soldiers unpacking the numerous care packages that seemed to arrive nearly every day. “We don’t do this in Germany”, he would say.
I asked if German soldiers received any care packages at all. He stated only from family. One of the other Americans mentioned that he thought the packages were sometimes a little much. But our German friend said no, that it was a good thing.
I hope the German people understand the good work of their military and let them know. Sooner would be better.
A number of nations have sent troops to work and fight hand in hand with us and I appreciate it even if their own may not.