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Benigna Coleman, left, a 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse, shops at a store owned by Sieglinde Goppner in Vilseck, Germany. Vilseck businesses expect less income while the regiment is in Iraq.
Benigna Coleman, left, a 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse, shops at a store owned by Sieglinde Goppner in Vilseck, Germany. Vilseck businesses expect less income while the regiment is in Iraq. (Seth Robson / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — This time last year Vilseck businesses were suffering thousands of dollars in damage allegedly caused by drunken, newly arrived 2nd Cavalry Regiment soldiers.

But the money troops spent in town more than made up for the vandalism, say local business people, who are prepared for a tough 15 months while the 3,500-member unit is deployed to Iraq.

Soldiers’ paychecks make up a big chunk of the money spent at on- and off-post businesses in Vilseck.

Sieglinde Goppner, who owns a small postal-and-magazine store in town, says soldiers account for 20 percent of her business. They’ve been regular customers at the shop since a similar on-post facility closed about the time the Strykers arrived, she said.

Naturally, Goppner expects to lose money while the unit is downrange.

Bavarian Motor Cars owners Mark and Suzana Kynaston, whose lot is one of several close to the front gate of the base at Vilseck, said sales already have dropped off.

“It’s going to be a bit of a loss to us because they are not here purchasing cars, but they haven’t been buying for the last five months because they have been training to go to Iraq,” Mark Kynaston said.

After the unit got its deployment order, there was a spurt of soldiers buying cars for their wives to use while they were away, and some wives might use powers of attorney to buy cars while their husbands are away, he added.

The Kynastons moved to Vilseck from Würzburg a year ago with a plan to sell cars to 2nd Cav troops, he said.

“This will be the future. Everything else is closing, and we have been hopping around Germany for 15 years,” he said.

But the couple is not surprised that 2nd Cav is deploying, he said.

“We knew it was going to happen. We are used to deployments because we went through it all the time in Würzburg,” he said.

The pair hope to cash in on hundreds of soldiers arriving at the nearby Grafenwöhr Training Area this summer, Suzana Kynaston said.

They are building a new BMW/Mini showroom at Tanzflek, halfway between Vilseck and Grafenwöhr, and also plan to open a used-car lot in Grafenwöhr to cater to the new arrivals, she said.

Barbara Lautner, who works at the Einhaupl gas station in Vilseck, said she doesn’t sell much gas to soldiers.

“They go to the Esso station down the road, which accepts U.S. gas coupons,” she said.

Although soldiers are regular customers for snacks and drinks, she expects the station’s business to decline.

Benigna Coleman, a 2nd Cav spouse who was shopping in Vilseck on Thursday, said she also expects many of the local businesses to suffer while the troops are deployed.

This time last year, the local bars were struggling to meet the demand from soldiers in need of a cold beer after a hard day’s work. Now the bars are empty, she said.

“I have a friend who works in a local bar — KK’s — and it’s empty these days,” said Coleman, a native of Holland who plans to stay in Vilseck while her husband is in Iraq.

On-post facilities such as the gymnasium, where Coleman works as an instructor, also are suffering with fewer customers around, she said.

Local businesses still cater to spouses such as Coleman, who says she does most of her shopping off-post.

They might also get a boost as a result of the downgrading of on-post shopping at Vilseck caused by the opening next month of a new post exchange at Grafenwöhr.

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