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VILSECK, Germany — The mayor of Vilseck is inviting families of deployed U.S. soldiers to a special reception at Castle Dagestein on Saturday before the annual Christmas market opens.

With the Vilseck-based 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment downrange, Mayor Hans-Martin Schertl wanted to “show a little solidarity to the families during this difficult time,” said Franz Zeilmann, a spokesman for the garrison.

It’s a gesture the mayor has made for the last several years, he said. “Our soldiers in Vilseck are part of the community and it’s been like that for many years,” Zeilmann said. “The mayor refers to the people of Vilseck as residents, not Germans or Americans.”

The reception, from 3-5 p.m., will wind down when the Christmas market opens at 5 p.m., starting with a lantern parade for children who will be escorted by Saint Nikolaus, as he is referred to in Germany. The local youth band will perform after the parade.

There also will be an area where children can listen to Christmas stories and fairy tales while parents enjoy the market.

DODDS leader selected for postGary Gerstner, assistant superintendent for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe Isles District, has been selected for a position with a district operated by the DOD school system in the United States.

Gerstner will serve as assistant superintendent for New York/Virginia in the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools system, according to a news release issued by the system. He replaces Mike Gould, who is taking over as superintendent of the district.

Gerstner began his career with the Department of Defense Education Activity as a teacher and coach in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1986.

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