Germany says goodbye to USAREUR commander with a torchlight ceremony
By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 11, 2017
WIESBADEN, Germany — As darkness settled, dozens of torch-wielding Bundeswehr soldiers slowly marched into position in front of the 18th-century Biebrich Palace.
The solemn procession marked the beginning of a farewell to Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who will retire later this year after having commanded U.S. Army Europe since November 2014.
The Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, dates to the Renaissance, when drums and pipes told mercenary troops it was time for a night of rest. The modern tattoo, which features a full military band, took form during the Napoleonic Wars, when the numerous German states fought for liberation from France.
Hodges appeared to appreciate the torchlights and triumphant music. He said before the performance that he was grateful for his host’s hospitality over the past three years.
“I am firmly convinced that this close relationship is key for the most important partnership on the globe,” he said. “I cannot think of a more trustworthy partner for my country and our armed forces.”
Hodges plans after retiring from the Army to work at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank. His replacement has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
Hodges said the tattoo, one of his final ceremonies as USAREUR commander, would be among his favorites.
“This evening is a highlight of my current assignment, my career and my entire life,” he said.