Monday, May 26, 2008

The German Beer Lady, John Anderson, and Bert

I wasn't long in Siegelsbach Army Depot when I met Bert. Bert was a good natured and funny guy from Indiana, who had that small town easy-going attitude and an adventuresome spirit. I was new in Germany and immediately fell in love with weizen beer,which we drank cold (us Americans anyway), served with a big slice of lemon...Whooo-Weee... nectar of the God's! So one day Bert, my assistant squad leader, says "Hey Sarge! Let's go see the beer lady in Siegelsbach. Save ya some money! She's got cases of it. Cheap too!" Cases of weizen beer? Cheap, too? Oh hell yeah! Next thing ya know we are at the beer lady's apartment. We ring the door bell and down the stairs lumbers this very plump and short 50 year old woman sporting a mustache a walrus would be proud of. Damn she's ugly, I'm thinking. Then following down the stairs behind her is another lady, obviously her sister, sporting a beard the Taliban would be proud of! I just look at Bert, smiling. Bert knowingly winks, as if to say...I know, but be cool. After having seen the beer ladies, I'm thinkin, they must sell some mean-assed beer. So Bert rattles off his German to them and we secure a case. Next thing ya know it's back to the barracks, drinking iced-down weizen beer (yes, we got lemons) and Bert says now we need some John Anderson. John Anderson? Never heard of him, I says.Well let me tell you (Bert says), "He's about the best country & western singer around". We drink, laugh, and I listen to Bert doing John Anderson...I don't know who's better, John Anderson, or Bert. The next day we're on duty as MP's at the nuke site and there, between the inner and outer perimeter fences of the tower-line, is Bert. With his M-16 slung, Vietnam era flak vest, web gear with ammo, his steel pot (Nam era helmet) raised above his head in his left hand, is Bert dancing and singing John Anderson's "Swinging". It was such an unexpected sight, I just laughed my ass off. What could I say. A typical American G.I.!
Later in the spring of 1985 Bert re-enlisted for the 101st Airborne Division. He wanted to go to the Army's Air-Assault School and be close to home (Spencer, Indiana) come harvest time (typical farm boy). I wished him good luck and thanked him. Later I got a post card from him. It was post-marked Clarkesville, Tennessee. Nice of him to send it. I hated writing. Phone calls were too expensive, back then. I was
thoughtless. I never replied.
....Now fast forward to 12 December 1985...I heard on Armed Forces Radio Network that a plane load of 101st Airborne Soldiers died in a plane crash at some place called Gander, Newfoundland. They were en route home for Christmas, after 6 months in Egypt on a UN Peace Keeping mission. My heart sank. I only knew of one guy in the 101st and it was Bert. I had a bad feelin'. I told my unit Chaplin about it. He said it was mostly infantry and he doubted any MP's were on board. I was a sergeant then and knew wherever troops went, so did M.P.'s. A couple of days later the Stars and Stripes published the names of those killed in the crash. I read the name...SGT Vergil L. Robertson Jr, unit- 101st MP Company, hometown- Spencer, Indiana. All my days Bert, I will never forget you. I will never again ignore a card or letter sent to me. I'm not so selfish or thoughtless now, Bert. I'm forever sorry I threw away that post card. SGT Gene.


Anonymous said...

JG, your talent as a writer means that I get the "essence of Bertness" as I read your tribute. I remember Gander and all that horror. I'm sorry you lost Bert. But why do I have the feeling he'd tell you not to feel bad, but he'd wink at you and tell you to put on some John Anderson, have a German beer and slice of lemon, and enjoy yourself?

I'm sure you amused him too, if your posting history is any indication.

Here's to Bertness everywhere!


Anonymous said...

What can I say. We ALL have more than one of these moments in our life, regards dropped communications.
You'll see him again.
I plan to meet the gentleman myself.

JihadGene said...

Here's to Bertness and to those who enjoy tasting life with good friends!
I'll see him again and we'll laugh, and laugh some more!


Erica said...

So sad about Bert, and even though I never liked Jon Anderson, next time a Yes song comes on the radio, I'll think of your friend.

GUYK said...

Here's a swig of coffee to Bert...and all of those other guys and gals who didn't make it home..

JihadGene said...

Guyk- Amen!

Anonymous said...

.... our lives teach us to realize what is important....


John of Argghhh! said...

To Bertness!

Justthisguy said...

Dang! Just Dang! Please excuse me while I go outside to spill a a libation (may he never thirst).

Ok, I'm back now. Sorry nobody told me about it sooner.

barb8870 said...

Searching for the person that was stationed at Siegelsbach...please email at My husband was at that base in the mid-70s also!
Need a few questions answered...hope you can help!
Barbara Hastings