European edition, Thursday, June 7, 2007

BUTZBACH, Germany — Another piece of the Ready First brigade community near Friedberg said goodbye Wednesday as the Butzbach Elementary School held a joyful and at times teary closing ceremony.

There was a hint of reluctance to let go in the air, and even the to-be-retired flag initially would not come down the pole outside the school.

“Hey, this is a great day,” Lt. Col. Antonio Amos, the Giessen garrison commander, told the assembled teachers, children and parents. “We’re celebrating a fine, fine institution. The Butzbach Elementary School is the best of the best.”

The school mostly educated children whose parents belong to the 1st Armored Division’s 1st Brigade, which concluded a grueling and extended Iraq tour earlier this year.

The brigade’s colors were cased in April and soldiers have started moving to other units, so Wednesday was a day for Butzbach Elementary to reflect on the past and the challenge educators and parents faced during the deployment.

Principal Sue Morin touched upon the sacrifices made as she repeatedly lauded students, staff and parents for the community they created.

“My words will be brief, because my heart is so proud right now,” she said.

Amid a shining sun and children who occasionally looked bored, songs were sung, teachers recited a Dr. Seuss story, and teacher Heinz Hohe, a German, recounted when Americans arrived in the area after World War II, when he was a child.

There was little food, he said, but the area had not been bombed too heavily.

Hohe choked up as he remembered a soldier who handed him chocolate.

“The families came after (the soldiers), and we watched them,” he said, adding that he and his friends were curious about their new neighbors and why the children had school so much later in the day.

Americans have been part of the community for a long time, he said.

The memories will live on in everyone who was a part of Butzbach Elementary, Morin said.

“Butzbach Elementary School will never be forgotten,” she said. “Our mountains are waiting; it’s time for us to be on our way.”

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