At Philadelphia Airport at 6am
During the first months of 1979, my roommate in the barracks of the Wiesbaden Military Community was Air Force Sergeant Cliff Almes. On May 2, of that year, Cliff was discharged from the USAF in West Germany. I drove him 20 miles to the place that has been home for him ever since, a monastery in Darmstadt.
Cliff got a new uniform he is still wearing. He is now Bruder Timotheus of the Land of Kanaan. We have talked on the phone ever since I left Germany in 1979 to go to college. I visited Cliff in Germany a few times in the last 40 years. In 2017 I spent a week with Cliff at Kanaan that included a visit to Point Alpha on the former East-West border in Fulda.
Cliff is here in the U.S. for a family wedding in Houston this coming weekend. He flew to Virginia, visited his brother, then visited me, then flew to Mexico to visit his sister before flying to Houston. Next week he'll be back in Darmstadt.
On this visit, Cliff met my wife and several of my friends here in Lancaster. On the long visit to Kanaan in 2017, I met some of the Brothers in Cliff's community and other people who visit the monastery. Dmitri, for example, visited Point Alpha with Cliff and I. And I visited German historic sites with Cliff and a Coptic Christian couple from Cairo.
Cliff is a military brat. His connections to the US Military go back to the Revolutionary War. Some of that story is here. Cliff's schedule did not allow for a historic site visit, but we did drive past all of the sites on Independence Mall in Philadelphia along the way to the airport. Maybe we can go inside on some future visit.
I met some of my best friends during my military service during the Cold War. They live as far away as Germany and San Diego now so it's nice when we can visit. My former tank unit, 1-70th Armor, has reunions every other year. I've made it to a couple of those. There's one this fall I'm going to miss because of conflicting plans, but I'm hoping for 2021.
In the meantime, there is a possibility Cliff and I will be able to spend a few days seeing Jerusalem in the fall. He has been there several times and I am looking forward to seeing it through his eyes.