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Happy Holidays everybody! No matter which holiday you celebrate, we hope it finds you in the best of health and spirits.

For those who are surrounded by your family — count that as a blessing and be thankful for the time you have together and the memories you are creating. If, on the other hand, you are away from your family and loved ones this Christmas as you serve your country, know that your sacrifice will seem distant the next time you are with them.

When most offices and facilities close for the holiday, the vitally important jobs must continue. So if you are on duty today, whether working in a hospital, a dining facility, a frigid flight line or on guard duty, remember that what you do is important and you are appreciated.

• • •

Now is the time to start thinking about your volksmarch goals for 2009. We are very happy that we met our goals for 2008 in spite of surgical procedures for both of us. The key to our success was starting early in the year and tenaciously plugging away. Then when the surgeries came along later in the year, we were ahead of the game and could afford the interruptions.

Keep your goals at a level that is comfortable for you. If you have never done a volksmarch, perhaps your first goal should be to find a friend who does volksmarches, or join your local club and get out and do at least one walk in 2009. That will get the ball rolling, and next thing you know you’ll love the sport. If you have done a few walks in the past, count the number you have completed and round up the number to the next highest multiple of 10 and make that your goal for 2009. You might also add the total kilometers you walked last year and round that number up to the next multiple of 100. Either way, keep your new goal within a reasonable reach.

Another goal you can set is to support your local volksmarch club. This is fairly easy if you live near a big base like Ramstein, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Aviano or JFC Headquarters Brunssum. These bases have large volksmarch clubs that plan many events during the year. For those who are not close to one of these clubs, search out and join a local civilian club. Either way, there is a place for you to meet volksmarchers, get questions answered and gain experience in this sport, especially if you are a novice.

But clubs need more than members. They need leaders, planners and organizers. Every event or trip requires many hours of volunteer work. If you are a more-experienced volksmarcher, we’re sure you recognize the many hours required for a volksmarch. It would be a tremendous help to your club for you to work at their next walk or hold a committee position. New people in a club, or on a committee, mean new ideas and renewed energy.

Based upon our personal experiences, we have seen and heard of several instances in which a few members do all of the work and the rest of the club members reap the benefits. It’s like everyone wants to go water-skiing, but nobody wants to drive the boat. Just remember, there is strength in numbers, so if more people chip in and help, fewer people will get burned out from doing all the work.

If you keep in mind the benefits of volksmarching, it will make your goals easier to reach. Some of the benefits are: it is a source of healthy exercise; it does not cost a great deal of money; you can walk as far and as fast as you want on any given day; it allows you to see and experience the beauty and the diverse cultures of Europe; you get to meet people who share your love of walking; and it is a sport that you can enjoy around the world. Catch the volksmarch bug here in Europe and take it back to the U.S. and help it grow there. We believe it is a win-win situation. So, may 2009 be filled with many Volksmarching opportunities complete with gentle downhill grades for you all.

• • •

Sadly, this weekend’s volksmarch in Wiesbaden-Delkenheim, Germany, is the Wiesbadener Volkssport Club’s last. The club formed in 1978 and has sponsored a hundred volksmarches. The club’s closing will have an unfortunate impact on volksmarching in the Wiesbaden area.

Its B-medal prize is from the club’s cup and plate series. Organizers have reduced the price for these limited souvenirs to 3 euros. Enjoy the 6k and 12k trails, which start both days from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (5 p.m. finish).

The easiest way to reach the start hall is to take the Wi-Delkenheim/Wallau exit off A66 and head towards Wiesbaden-Delkenheim (opposite direction from Wallau).

• • •

This Sunday is one of our favorite walks. It is the annual Oliebollenwandeltocht in Simpelveld, Netherlands. Oliebollen are a seasonal Dutch pastry which, if you eat them, are said to bring you good luck in the New Year. These tangerine-sized balls of fried dough can be plain or made with raisins. They are served warm with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. This walk will have oliebollen and Glühwein at the start and controls.

What a great combination to fight off the cold in late December!

• • •

Another special holiday walk can be found in Gemmenich, Belgium, on Saturday. The "Marche Des Crèches" will take you past about 20 homes that have Nativity Scenes in their front yards. We really enjoyed this walk a couple of years ago. Start the 6- and 12-kilometer routes between 2 and 7 p.m. at the Collège Notre-Dame on Rue de Moresnet.

Großenlüder bei Fulda, Germany, is also offering a volksmarch with a Krippenweg on Sunday, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

• • •

Miscellaneous notes about this week’s volksmarch events:

• This year the folks in Wolferstadt, Germany, are offering B-medals from past years’ bird-of-the-year-themed plates. The 5K and 11k start times Tuesday and Wednesday are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you’re interested in attending Tuesday’s torch walk, be there between 5 and 7 p.m. Wrap up Tuesday’s walk by 9 p.m.; finish on Wednesday by 4 p.m.

• A ceramic angel is your prize at Ochsenhausen, Germany. Start the 5k and 10k Saturday and Sunday between 7:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Notes from Clark Soeldner, our Italian walking connection:

• The full name for the Cusignana Bassa listing is Cusignana Bassa di Giavera del Montello. This is a very popular walk in a very pretty area. I would recommend arriving early, as parking could be an adventure.

• At the end of the Zanica walk there will be pasta for everyone. The final arrival time is 2 p.m.

E-mail volksmarch information to two.walkers@yahoo.com. Mail brochures to Bob and Lorraine Huffaker, CMR 460, Box 278, APO, AE, 09703-0278.

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