By Del Starr, a pseudonym, all rights reserved.

ON FOREIGN SOIL

When Gary and Dianne arrived in Germany, it was an arduous trip to their duty station at the northernmost corner of Germany. The language and customs were foreign, and Brian was tired from traveling and fussed almost constantly. When the family arrived at Bremerhaven, they were grateful to check into the post Guest House and relax. It was the first night they had slept in a real bed since leaving the West Coast.

Dianne didn’t even need to go out and find a place to live because the army assigned quarters to them. They only needed to wait for about a week until everything was set for them to move into their new apartment. Their furniture was delivered on the day that they received the keys to the apartment and Gary and Dianne set up housekeeping. Once more Dianne’s world was secure and loving. It was only a few weeks later that Dianne told Gary that their family would soon number five and a few short months later, Brad was born.

Brad was more like Janetta as a baby. He was calm and non-demanding and Dianne enjoyed him immensely. Brian, on the other hand, had developed into a very active child. He did things that confounded Dianne and more than once, Dianne would find him puttering around the apartment in the middle of the night. He was determined to feed himself when he was hungry and Dianne would discover that he had gotten into the refrigerator and helped himself, always creating an enormous mess. He took things apart, he constantly attacked Janetta, and Dianne grew more and more apprehensive about him. The day that he set Brad’s crib on fire, Dianne decided that they needed help to raise Brian and she approached the military doctors. It was concluded that Brian was hyperactive and the family was sent to Landstuhl for a medical evaluation.

The diagnosis of hyperactivism was substantiated in Landstuhl and medications were prescribed for Brian. The family boarded the “duty train” for their return to their home in Bremerhaven.

Dianne began administering the drugs to Brian and was devastated by the results. In Dianne’s own words she said, “Brian sat in the middle of the floor wide awake but sound asleep.” Brian became inactive and though it provided relief for Dianne, she wanted Brian to be a normal, healthy child and could not accept this new development. She took Brian off the medications.

More trips were made to Landstuhl, different medications were prescribed, and each one seemed to react in similar fashion on little Brian. Dianne came to the point where she felt that the raising of Brian was God’s challenge to her.

It was about this time that Dianne received a letter from her former church. They had been notified that Gary and Dianne were headed for Germany in the service of their country and the letter was addressed:

 

Dear Dianne,

In going through the church records, it has been determined that you have not attended services for some time.

If you do not attend church services this coming Sabbath, we will be forced to remove your name from our records.

Sincerely,

The _________ Seventh-day Adventist Church.

 

Dianne was crushed. She had only recently found her footing in the church! She had looked for a church in Bremerhaven, and had contacted the General Conference office in Maryland, telling them that the only place she had been directed to was a stinky, smelly crawl hole, on Sabbath there had been no people in attendance, and she would like very much to find a place to worship on the Sabbath.

She received no reply.

She finally put a notice in the local army newspaper, asking that any Seventh-day Adventists meet at the post chapel the following Friday night at a specified time. It was with great anticipation that Dianne went to the chapel that Friday night but only one lady showed up. They were delighted to meet each other and because of their common ground, became fast friends but still, there was no congregation in which to worship and now both of the ladies felt alone. At least they had each other. They thanked God for that.

Brian’s situation deteriorated and the family was making such frequent trips to Landstuhl that it was decided that they should be transferred to a duty station nearer to the hospital. Gary received orders to report to Kaiserslautern.

Once again, the family packed to move. Once again they spent time in both the Guest House at Bremerhaven and the one at Kaiserslautern; but once again, the government assigned quarters to them and the stress was relieved from Dianne.

They enjoyed Kaiserslautern much more than they had Bremerhaven. The community of Americans was greater and activities were more abundant. Because of the separation from church membership and the lack of any place to formally worship the Lord, Dianne and Gary’s lives had closed in on the Sabbath and they no longer felt a need to worship with other believers. They did not even seek a church in Kaiserslautern.

Instead, they joined a square dance club at the airbase nearby at Ramstein. Both became proficient dancers and traveled extensively throughout Germany to various dances. It was an activity which could include their three children. It was clean and wholesome and Gary and Dianne were delighted when their names were presented as potential officers of the club. When they were elected, they were overjoyed and accepted their positions heartily.

The first sign of trouble came when the first sergeant appeared at their door to notify them that Dianne’s grandfather, Grace’s father, had passed away.

A few short weeks later a letter arrived from Dianne’s stepmother. It mentioned that she probably knew about her stepbrother and that her half-brother was being placed in a body cast for the entire summer.

Dianne had not, in fact, heard from anyone and with fear in her heart, she went to the Red Cross to ask them to wire her family to determine the problem with her stepbrother. Once more the first sergeant came to their door to relay the word that Dianne’s brothers had been swimming and on their way home, riding their bicycles, they had been struck from the rear by a drunk driver and Robby had been killed. Richard had to be placed in a body cast but his life had been spared because he was riding with the inner tubes around his waist.

Fall found the Fasching season upon them. Everyone participated in this event. Much like Halloween in the U.S., people dress in costumes and have celebrations. It lasts for several days, though, as opposed to the one night of Halloween in the U.S. Dianne and her neighbor decided that they would dress Gary as a woman. They found him a blue dress and fishnet stockings with a pair of heels that would fit his feet. The neighbor let him borrow a wig and it was with hilarity that the two couples set out for an evening on the base.

The hilarity increased during the evening as people approached Gary as a woman only to realize their mistake. He entered the men’s restroom and was ordered out by the other men. He was even asked to dance by someone who did not know that “she” was a “he.” It was a fun evening. Gary had so much fun that he even saved the dress and fishnet stockings as mementos.

The winters were cold and snowy and just outside their apartment was a small hill. The children would go out on the hill during the daytime and using waxed milk containers, would make the sliding area very slick. At night, after the children were in bed, the parents would go out on the hill and sled. There was a unity of community in that area and Gary and Dianne enjoyed the company of their neighbors on these nightly forays.

When their term of service was up in Kaiserslautern, (a period of close to two years) Gary and Dianne suffered a bit of regret as they told their friends, neighbors, and their square dance club good-bye.

Dianne had also told Gary that their family would soon number six.

Gary had been given the option of requesting one of three duty stations in the U.S. and very carefully, Dianne and he had gone over their choices. Dianne had told Gary that she really didn’t care where they were stationed and that she would only oppose one duty station. That would be San Francisco as she did not like the area and was fearful of earthquakes. (She had read a statement that Ellen White had made, saying that San Francisco would once again be destroyed by an earthquake.) So San Francisco was not one of their choices.

When the orders came down, Dianne was appalled to learn that they were to be stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco, California. But Dianne had taken the position that Ruth had taken with Naomi in the Bible, saying “Whither thou goest, I will go.”

During their stay in Germany, the family had acquired a cat, “Kitty Mow,” and had recently acquired a dachshund dog that Dianne abhorred. They decided to take “Kitty Mow” back to the U.S. but it was a long hard talk that brought them to the point of also taking the dachshund. The dog was registered with the Verband fur Das Deutsche Hundewesen which is the only kennel club in Germany that is recognized by the American Kennel Club. Gary’s parents had begun to raise puppies and after they discussed it with Gary’s stepfather on the phone, it was decided to take “Dutch” to Missouri to be used as a stud.

Meanwhile, Grace had decided to visit the family in Germany, arriving just as they were clearing quarters. Dianne had hoped to take her to several outlying countries but duties prohibited and they were only able to take her to France. When Gary and Dianne had to board the plane for South Carolina, Grace boarded a plane for Holland and they made a plan to meet in New York upon Grace’s return to the U.S.

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Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the German Fasching season here