Cold War veteran cherishes freedom | Morrison County File

Freedom. This is something Jim Parent, 82, from Fort. Ripley has been cherished throughout his life. Even more after witnessing the devastation and violation of human rights communism caused in East Berlin, Germany during the Cold War.

“It gave me a huge appreciation for our freedom in this country,” he said.

Parent served in the United States Army as a Private First Class in the Infantry from 1960 to 1962. He received infantry and advanced infantry training at Fort Riley, Kansas. He also worked as a mechanic and was in a transport unit for some time before being transferred to the infantry again.

After serving in Germany during the Cold War and seeing firsthand the devastation and human rights abuses caused by communism, Jim Parent appreciates the freedom America has to offer more than ever.

After training was completed, Parent said his wife, Sandra, joined him in Kansas. However, shortly thereafter, he received a three-day notice that he was deployed to Germany.

After she left, she returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, where her family was located. It was hard for the two of them to be apart, especially since they had been together for many years. They were childhood sweethearts and started dating when she was 13 and he was 15.

Parent and the other soldiers were transported to Germany in a military plane. The aircraft itself was dismantled to the sides of the aircraft with the seats aligned. It was a 10 hour flight.

At first they were stationed in Wildflecken, a village in southern Germany with a training center that was originally built for the armored and artillery units of the German army (Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS ) in 1937-1939. It was only days before the end of World War II that American troops found the location and discovered that the last units of the German army had left the area and left behind wounded German soldiers and soldiers. hundreds of prisoners of war.

The United States then organized an internally displaced persons camp at the site for approximately 20,000 released prisoners of war, concentration camp survivors, forced laborers and others from April 1945 to 1951. After 1951, the camp and center training centers served as the U.S. Army’s training base and home base for several Army units.

Cold War veteran cherishes freedom

One of the places Jim Parent remembers serving in Germany during the Cold War is Bernauer Street in Berlin, also known as the Street of Mourning, as many people tried to escape on the Communist side of the wall. by jumping out of the windows. Razor-sharp barbed wire was installed on the roofs of many buildings to prevent people from escaping.

Eventually, Parent stated that he and the others went in a convoy to Berlin. Due to the war, the city had been divided into four sectors: Russian, French, British and American. While the French, British and American sectors represented the free and democratic western world, the Russian side came to be known as the Iron Curtain Communist East.

Parent said it was frustrating and heartbreaking to see what the people of East Germany go through.

“They didn’t have their own resources. We were stealing from everything these people needed to live, ”he said.

This is something Parent is not too sure people can realize when they think of the Berlin Wall. They may have heard of the existence of West Berlin and East Berlin, but may not always realize how much people on the Communist side have really suffered, he said.

Because the people lived in a city, Parent said they did not have farmland to plant and harvest crops and turn them into food. People depended on American troops and others to carry the necessities they needed to survive, such as food, clothing, and more.

The pilots and their planes were also always under threat of being shot down while delivering an airdrop.

Parent said the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) built the wall in an attempt to keep Western influence out of East Germany. Although rumors spread in 1961 that measures would be taken to strengthen the border to prevent East Germans from crossing into West Germany, East German leader Walter Ulbricht refuted the rumors and said there was no intention to build a wall.

However, on the night of August 12-13, 1961, a metal barrier was built around West Berlin and all established crossings were closed. As a result, neighborhoods were divided and families were separated overnight. To establish a more solid structure, a concrete wall 12 feet high and 4 feet wide was erected with razor sharp barbed wire to prevent people from fleeing East Germany to the west.

Parent said that initially many people thought the wall was only temporary. No one had imagined that they wouldn’t fall or that they wouldn’t be allowed to cross freely to the west until 40 years later, in 1989.

Parent said that initially only one wall was built. Because people were constantly trying to escape from the Communist side, a second wall was built with a “death strip” between the two, which was up to 160 meters wide and contained anti-vehicle trenches, nail beds and other tusks. The people who by chance were able to climb the wall and cross the razor sharp wire to the death strip were immediately shot.

Communication between families, friends and other separated people was weak or non-existent. Sometimes, Parent said, he would watch people greet each other from time to time, if one of them was on higher ground.

There was also constant pressure that the Soviets would invade and take control of West Berlin as well.

Parent said the contrast between East Berlin and West Berlin is very stark. On the west side, life went on as usual – people bought food, clothes and other items, got together with friends, and enjoyed different arts and more. It was quite the opposite on the east side.

“It was like a war zone. Bombed buildings, just rubble. You rarely saw anyone outside, ”he said.

When Parent was in Germany, he took several photos of what he saw. After returning home, he also began to follow the news of what was happening abroad. After the wall fell in 1989, and people were able to walk through, Parent said he had read and seen pictures of how many people stood outside grocery stores, looking out of windows – amazed at how much food was available, like apples and oranges and people could just come in and buy it.

“There are so many things we take for granted until we don’t have them anymore. This is why we must protect the freedom we have, ”he said.

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