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Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer walk to their seats at a farewell playing of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, for Hodges, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer walk to their seats at a farewell playing of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, for Hodges, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer walk to their seats at a farewell playing of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, for Hodges, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Joerg Vollmer walk to their seats at a farewell playing of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, for Hodges, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)
Bundeswehr soldiers carry torches as they march toward their positions at a Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Bundeswehr soldiers carry torches as they march toward their positions at a Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)
Bundeswehr soldiers carry torches as they march toward their positions at a Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Bundeswehr soldiers carry torches as they march toward their positions at a Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)
The conductor of the German army band from Ulm directs his charges during a Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany.
The conductor of the German army band from Ulm directs his charges during a Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)
Bundeswehr soldiers stand during the playing of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany. The palace, built in the early 18th century, has been the site of the past three tattoos — solemn evening military band performances — bidding farewell to leaders of U.S. Army Europe.
Bundeswehr soldiers stand during the playing of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Biebrich Palace in Wiesbaden, Germany. The palace, built in the early 18th century, has been the site of the past three tattoos — solemn evening military band performances — bidding farewell to leaders of U.S. Army Europe. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)
Bundeswehr soldiers march past following the conclusion of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at the grounds of Biebrich Palance in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Bundeswehr soldiers march past following the conclusion of the Grosser Zapfenstreich, or Grand Tattoo, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at the grounds of Biebrich Palance in Wiesbaden, Germany. (Dan Stoutamire/Stars and Stripes)

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.

stoutamire.dan@stripes.com Twitter: @DKS_Stripes

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