WIESBADEN, Germany — The commander of U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden has been presented with one of the highest German military decorations.
Recognizing the "outstanding commitment, personal initiative and even courage" exemplified on behalf of enhancing German-American relations, German Maj. Gen. Gerhard Stelz awarded Col. Ray Graham, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, with the Cross of Honor of the Bundeswehr.
Stelz, commander of the Wehrbereichskommando II, presented Graham with the prestigious German military award during the garrison's New Year's Reception Jan. 25.
"The United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany have shared a long and varied history," said Stelz during remarks to guests at the New Year's reception, held in Wiesbaden's Community Activity Center.
"The values of freedom, democracy and human rights provide the common basis of the German-American relationship. Indeed, our common link is the deep-rooted friendship which has evolved over so many decades."
Even the closest friendship needs dedicated individuals who keep the flames kindled, said Stelz, referring to Grahamms contributions. "For you, the German-American friendship has never been a mere obligation but always a matter close to your heart."
Among other accomplishments, Stelz cited Graham's role as garrison commander in opening the doors to Wiesbaden Army Airfield for German citizens who rarely get an inside look at the workings of the U.S. military in Europe during the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
"In June last year you opened the doors of the Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Erbenheim as the first U.S. garrison in Germany, and, as I was told, as the first U.S. garrison in Europe ever, after the dreadful attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for an open day to the public...more than 30,000 visitors came as an overwhelming manifestation and demonstration of friendship and solidarity with the American fellow citizens."
In addition to the success of the Berlin Airlift commemoration which gave thousands of visitors a chance to meet German and American veterans during events in June 2008, Stelz also praised Graham for his contributions to helping strengthen ties between the German and American military forces. "This is exemplary and has set new standards for an entirely successful cooperation."
Graham, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and assumed command of the U.S. Army Garrisons Hessen and Wiesbaden in June 2007, will retire from the U.S. Army this summer after 28 years of service.
"I was surprised and deeply moved by this presentation, and am honored to accept in recognition of the many things we have done together to bring our nations' military forces closer together."
"The Cross of Honor of the Bundeswehr represents the most distinguished German military decoration," added Stelz. "It is a great honor - and at the same time a real pleasure to me - to honor such a soldier for his outstanding services to German-American friendship by awarding this decoration to him."