EFP Battlegroup soldiers participated in independence day festivities

Rukla, Lithuania, 15 March 2017
On 11 March 1990, Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union. The enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Lithuania soldiers participated in numerous events to mark the anniversary.

An eFP BG LTU detachment marching in formation through Jonava. Bild vergrößern An eFP BG LTU detachment marching in formation through Jonava. (© Bundeswehr)

Friday morning, 9.30 a.m. Numerous Lithuanian, Dutch, Belgian and German soldiers as well as many locals and children have come to the barracks of the Iron Wolf Brigade in Rukla for this special occasion. The weapons display has been set up since 8 a.m. so that the people from the town can have a look at the vehicles, most of which are new to them.

Children shouting “Guten Morgen”

A historical canon fires and the first part of the event begins: a run of about 4.5 kilometres. German soldiers standing at the gate to the barracks hear some of the children participating in the race shout a friendly “Guten Morgen”.

Around 1500 runners are taking part, among them about 200 civilians. This includes some 100 children who have been brought here by bus from nearby schools. A Lithuanian soldier says that this run goes back a number of years. It is carried out in formation and leads around the town of Rukla. Order of the day for the soldiers: enhancing their public presence.

The people of Jonava marching happily through town celebrating their independence day. Bild vergrößern The people of Jonava marching happily through town celebrating their independence day. (© Bundeswehr)

“Leo” is the main attraction

In spite of the chilly weather happy faces can be seen everywhere – from the start to the finish line. After a quick parade, there is hot tea for everybody. Then the most interesting part for many Lithuanians begins: the vehicles display. The Bundeswehr Leopard 2 battle tank is the main attraction here, not least since the Lithuanian armed forces don’t have tanks.

Festivities in Jonava

The next day, Independence Restoration Day itself, dawns grey but dry. The nearby town of Jonava has come up with many events so that not only the local people but also the newly arrived NATO soldiers will remember this special occasion.

First, there are various races over different distances. These competitions have been taking place in Jonava for 28 years. “It makes a nice change,” says Sergeant R, one of 29 battlegroup runners participating in the race. Altogether, 500 runners take part. At the end, the fastest runner turns out to be a Lithuanian who completed the 15-kilometre race in a fantastic time of 47 minutes and 45 seconds.

Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup soldiers joined in to run around Rukla. Bild vergrößern Enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup soldiers joined in to run around Rukla. (© Bundeswehr)

Marching through town

Later the Iron Wolf Brigade and the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Lithuania soldiers as well as numerous civilians participate in a parade through town to adequately commemorate this special day. During the whole event, there is a solemn yet also very cheerful atmosphere.

For many Lithuanians, this day symbolises their freedom, and they want to celebrate it properly. They are all the more grateful for the support provided by the eFP Battlegroup Lituania soldiers and US forces also present in the country.

Mayor expresses his gratitude

The mayor expresses his gratitudes in his speech. “We are very thankful that you are here to defend our freedom side by side with our soldiers. But we also thank your families back home who are having to do without you while you are here.”

After the national anthem and the price-giving, the foreign soldiers get a very special surprise. “Bel Canto”, one of the best choirs of the country, has come just for them. At the end of an impressive concert, Lithuanian, American and German soldiers present flowers to the ladies of the choir.

This is the translation of an article by Stephan Bumüller on www.bundeswehr.de