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German Army civilian mason Harold Balscher helps install a statue of St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery and explosive ordinance disposal, at the new town of Netzaberg on Thursday.
German Army civilian mason Harold Balscher helps install a statue of St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery and explosive ordinance disposal, at the new town of Netzaberg on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
German Army civilian mason Harold Balscher helps install a statue of St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery and explosive ordinance disposal, at the new town of Netzaberg on Thursday.
German Army civilian mason Harold Balscher helps install a statue of St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery and explosive ordinance disposal, at the new town of Netzaberg on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — St. Barbara, the patron saint of the artillery and explosive ordnance disposal, is now watching over soldiers here with the installation of a statue dedicated to her in the new town of Netzaberg.

American and German soldiers helped install the small statue on Thursday at Netzaberg — a new town built to for U.S. soldiers and their families stationed at Grafenwöhr.

The town, scheduled to welcome its first residents next year, will feature middle and elementary schools, a youth center, convenience store, 830 houses and its own access road leading into the training area.

Maj. Scott Gillespie of U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, one of the soldiers on-hand for the statue’s installation, said the statue was placed next to the ruins of the old town of Netzaberg, which was demolished in the late 1930s when the training area expanded.

A sign with information about the history of the area and the old town will be erected next to the statue, Gillespie said.

Lt. Col. Dieter Kargl, Bundeswehr liaison detachment commander at Grafenwöhr, pointed out the ruins of an old guest house near the place where the statue was erected.

“That is the reason why they want to set up this stone here. We get reminded of this small village,” he said.

Sgt. Maj. Gerald Morgenstern, another member of the liaison detachment involved in the statue project, said the statue is attached to restored remains of an old stone monument that used to stand at Netzaberg.

The statue stands in a grove of chestnut trees planted in what used to be the beer garden of the old guest house. The area was cleared of weeds and branches recently by the German Forest Service and the Bundeswehr, he said. Fruit trees will be planted nearby as part of the new town project, Morgenstern added.

St. Barbara will “save the soldiers on the training area when they handle dangerous equipment,” Morgenstern said.

According to legend, St. Barbara lived and died around the year 300 A.D., and was supposedly killed by a lightning bolt, which originally made her the patron saint of keeping people safe in thunderstorms and fires. As gunpowder became more widely used, she began being invoked as the protector of people dealing with the often unstable early versions of the explosive.

Eventually, she became the patron saint of artillerymen. In fact, The Order of Saint Barbara — created by the U.S. Field Artillery Association — is an honorary military society for both Army and Marine artillery troops.

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