Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Life Long Lessons of Panther Pride!

On June 6, 2008 one of the most important pieces of my personal development and a tremendous source of my scholastic pride and identity faded into history and will exist no more except in the cherished memories of those of us who had the distinction and privilege to be part of the Mighty Black and Gold of Hanau American High School. As a result of a reallocation of U.S. Forces and the draw down of US troop levels in Europe, The Home of the Panthers closed its doors forever and the roar of the Panthers was silenced in an emotional ceremony highlighted in the Armed Forces paper the Stars and Stripes. It's hard to communicate or explain the special community that existed amongst the military personnel and their families who were stationed in Europe from the end of WWII until the collapse of the Soviet Bloc during the period which will be forever known as the Cold War.

In many ways, the communities that existed amongst the Cold Warriors formed the closest approximation to the American Dream of Unity that I have ever been privileged to experience. Thousands of miles away from home, and divided into sub-communities that were called Kasernes in Germany, American Military members and their families created a small town feel that was warm, inviting and supportive. Going to High School was a unique experience that I would not fully appreciate until finishing my High School career stateside where the school community was much more divided.

At our school, the children of community VIP's and what the civilian world might call management (officer's kids), walked side by side with the children of blue collar types and the formen (junior enlisted and Non-commissioned Officers) and formed life-long friendships that would be extremely more difficult to experience in corresponding social circles back in the "World" (U.S.) Friendships were formed without respect to race or culture in a world that produced some of the most spectacular varieties of ethnic togetherness one could imagine. One might see a boy whose father was African-American and whose mother was German, dating a girl whose father was Puerto Rican and whose mother was Korean. There were innumerable varieties, all kinds of friendships and everybody sat together in the lunch room. This unity showed itself especially strong during times of crisis. When Iran took US hostages and the rescue attempt to retrieve those hostages failed, there was no question about whether we should have attempted it nor was there any political division among us, only deep sorrow that the mission effort had fallen short. After all, those who died in the attempt were part of our extended military family.

At good ol' Hanau High we also had the typical joys of High School with a few special distinctions. Our Varsity football team was undefeated and unscored on during one unbelievable season. At the end of the following season when the team was placed in the toughest bracket possible because of their outstanding performance, they repeated undefeated and were only scored on a few of times over the course of the season. The JROTC program in which I was involved, mirrored this accomplishment, taking down the mighty Stuttgart High School JROTC Program in a drill team Championship causing everyone who competed and lost to us to wonder who this little team from Hanau High was. It was an impression so deep that a few years later when I entered West Point, one of the members of that fabulous Stuttgart team we managed to beat, shook my hand and refused to harass me though he was an upperclassman and totally within his rights to do so during my Plebe Year. Hanau High was a special time and place.

The import of this special place and time is indelible for me. My lifelong commitment to see people come together across barriers and my devotion to break down walls of division between people comes from having seen it work at HAHS. It can be done. Whether or not I see it repeated in the world at large, I will never relent from applying the lessons of togetherness I learned at Hanau in the Christian Community. The Apostle Paul said it in unmistakable terms - All are one in Christ Jesus. Until Jesus comes or I go to Him, I will doggedly pursue this vision of oneness in Christ that can model oneness for others. Thanks to my days as a Panther, I know it's not just an illusive dream, but a powerful and possible reality. I love you Hanau High, and I'll never forget the wonderful lessons I learned in your hallowed halls! Until next time...