Reagan praises soldiers in Berlin
Stars and Stripes June 13, 1987
BERLIN — President Reagan Friday added his birthday wishes to the city of Berlin amid cheering American military and family members at Templehof Central Airport.
"It is not often that I can go to a birthday party for someone or thing older than I am," Reagan told the 3,000 German and American guests at an all-day party for the 750-year-old city.
The president said the relationship between the United States and the city of Berlin is "stronger than ever. We go back a long time." He noted that more than 20 American communities bear the name Berlin.
In his 15-minute speech, Reagan praised the American servicemembers stationed in the occupied city.
"To the 14,000 servicemembers in Berlin, I want to thank them and reassure the Berliners that the troops will be here as long as they are needed by the city of Berlin," Reagan said.
He also congratulated the graduating classes of Berlin American and John F. Kennedy high schools.
The crowd of partygoers began arriving at Templehof as early as 8 a.m., although the president and first lady did not arrive in Berlin until 11:45 am., then returned to the airport celebration about 4 p.m.
But the long wait didn't deter the determination of party participants intent on making the birthday bash the best Berlin had seen.
"I'm so excited," said 8-year-old Tori Anderson. "I just wish the president would arrive so we can sing these songs. I'm kind of getting sick of rehearsing them."
Tori and 32 other children from the Mormon Children's Choir sang a medley of birthday songs during the celebration. The children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, had rehearsed an hour a week since the first of April for their five-minute part of Friday's show.
Choir member Amanda Vroman, 11, said it was exciting to think she would be seeing the president because "not everyone can say they've had the chance."
As the crowd mingled throughout the afternoon, a giant television screen showed the president's speech at the Brandenburg Gate and other visits in Berlin.
"I'm very excited," said Eleanor Ansberry, a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas A. Roberts Elementary School. The children think they are the only ones who get excited, but I'm glad to be here, too."
Ansberry was one of more than 600 volunteers who helped at the party.
They also spent many hours preparing by printing invitations and blowing up thousands of red, white and blue balloons that dropped from the ceiling after Reagan finished his speech and a four-layer birthday cake with red, white and blue icing was presented.
Many of the servicemembers said they felt honored at being chosen to attend.
"I love being here, and I was very proud of the president's speech at the gate," said Tech. Sgt. Don Steel of the 6912th Electronic Security Sq. "I saw President Richard Nixon in Florida in 1970-71, but I think this is more exciting."
A Templehof public affairs spokesman said each unit in Berlin was given spaces to send people to the party.
Boy Scouts Joey Kelly and Mark Bass, who volunteered to pick up trash at the event, were worried about not seeing the president.
"We're short and with all these people, I don't know. We will have to find a good spot to stand," Kelly said before Reagan arrived.
For 13-year-old Kevin Kendall, the party will be something he will write home to Paoli, Ind., about.
"I was right in front of the president. I got some great pictures. No one will believe me when I write back home."
Army Sgt. Jeff Mira of the Combat Support Co, 4th Bn, 502nd Inf Regt, will also remember his role at the party.
When a public affairs representative was roaming around the hall looking for extra programs, Mira and his wife, Susan, gave up theirs.
The representative explained there were no extra programs for the presidential party.
"This is great. Maybe I should have signed it so the president would know it was mine," Mira said.
The party ended when the 20,000 balloons and 2,000 candy parachutes dropped from the ceiling of the hall after Reagan ended his speech and prepared to leave.
The candy parachutes were reminiscent of the "candy bombers" during the Berlin Airlift. Templehof was a key element to the efforts to supply the city.