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The Catholic Defender: Reforger and The Tree of Life

Because of the threat of the Warsaw Pact

(Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania), NATO drafted in 1967 a major exercise called "Reforger". This training event was to show NATO's ability to deploy to West Germany against any threat as a result of the "Cold War".

Along with the United Stated, Canada and the United Kingdom were large contributors and participants in Reforger. In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson planned to withdraw two Divisions from the European Theater of Operations. Reforger became the annual means to show the United States commitment to defend Europe.

In 1986, I received orders to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to Germany and that's when I became a part of this defense of Europe Campaign. I participated in the Reforger exercise in 1987 and 1988.

I was stationed in Schweinfurt Germany between October 1986 through October 1989. I actually left Germany and returned to the United States about a month before the Berlin wall was to fall. I loved Germany, it has a rich history, a strong Christian foundation.

You can drive the autobahn, the countryside and find crucifixes, statues in the middle of the field, or at some intersection on any street. It is an awesome place to spend a tour of duty. I was attached with a Support unit and I was a squad leader of the "Track Pack".

At the time, I was in really good shape, I would do about 20 chin ups every morning just because I could. I would always max my PT Test in the 19-21 year old age group, not bad for an over 30 guy. I worked hard to improve the readiness and proficiency of the track pack.

I had recently been promoted to Sergeant and I was solidly in charge of the "Track Pack" in the Ambulance Platoon. In those days it was always a chore putting up cammo net as it would always get hung up on the track.

There were a million places on the vehicle that always would tangle up. The crew usually would be a two man team consisting of a driver and a TC, Troop Commander (someone who would keep an eye out for the driver). It was always demanding especially when you had to break track.

That was always hard work and you have to watch what your doing. It was Reforger 1988, it was cold and wet. I was in command of a 113 Track vehicle deployed at a Command Post (CP) where we had a casualty collection point.

I was responsible for taking casualties to the rear for higher care and it was my job to plot the map with planned routes to evacuate casualties.

It was a cold hard winter this year and the roads had snow and ice on the roads. We had orders to move our track through a village transporting a (fake) casualty to a prescribed place for medical support.

I was Troop Commander (TC) of our track and was sitting in the back hatch where it was cold. On our route, we were trying to make a trip down a large hill when the track became like a sled.

With ice on a slope moving down a hill, my driver lost control of the vehicle as we began to move across the highway. As we edged toward the other side of the road the track began to turn over sideways to the left when all of a sudden we came to a complete halt. All we could do was to brace ourselves. If the track had turned over, we would have plummeted to our death falling down a gorge at least a hundred feet. When we were fully stopped the track was off the entire right side and the roof of the track had hit a lone tree. This tree was not a large tree, but it certainly stopped the track from rolling down this gorge. The Driver and I could only position ourselves inside the track bracing ourselves for a terrible end. I remember it like slow motion as we began to flip over to our left when suddenly it just stopped right there in mid flip. We literally was sitting with the whole of the track tilted against the tree. The whole right side of the track was lifted way off the ground. Later, I couldn't help but think of the Riddler who fought Batman and would meet his band of criminals in a tilted room.

I opened the back door and our fake casualty who was riding in the back on a litter came out from the back throwing up as he thought his life was over. It was a site to see as the track was literally on it's way to rolling sideways down this gorge. This was the only tree in the entire area and we hit it dead center. I thanked the Lord for his presence and for the tree! We needed a miracle!

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 states, "But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh."

Many of us can remember a time when time it self kind of stands still. These occasions make a great reminder why we should always be prepared in our faith because we are not promised tomorrow. But we place our Trust in the Lord and He does work miracles.

I remember our maintenance crew that had to recover our track from it's position resting on that tree and how they reacted to the "luck" that we somehow survived! For me it was not luck, it was prayer!

James 1:17 states, "all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change."

O My God, I adore Thee and I love Thee with all my heart. I thank Thee for having created me, for having made me a Catholic and for having watched over me this day. Pardon me for the evil I have done this day; and if I have done any good, deign to accept it. Watch over me while I take my rest and deliver me from danger. May Thy grace be always with me. Amen


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