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American kids extend birthday wishes to German city of Grafenwoehr

Students celebrate the birthday of Grafenwoehr, Germany

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Ryland Edwards was nervous; it was big day for the 11-year-old Grafenwoehr Elementary School student.

"There are a lot of powerful people here," said Edwards.

Standing outside of the Grafenwoehr Rathaus among his fellow fifth-graders while second graders looked up to him, Edwards read aloud a birthday wish extended to Mayor Helmuth Waechter in honor of the city's 650th celebration.

"Living here means living in a town full of history, culture and tradition," read Edwards. "We are proud to spend this great birthday together with you."

The students then presented the mayor with a handmade banner.

Waechter inspected and artwork and smiled, thanking the children for their hard work.

Additionally, Waechter expressed his gratitude to U.S Garrison Grafenwoehr Commander Col. Vann Smiley and fellow community members for the rewarding relationship between the German and American nations.

Smiley shook the mayor's hand and addressed the children.

"Burgermeister Waechter ist mein Freund and my partner," said Smiley.

Students danced around in excitement as they followed Waechter, who escorted them into the meeting hall of the town council to explain how he enacts legislation.

They sat in plush chairs encompassing a large wooden table and asked questions about the mayor and the city he runs.

The meeting hall is where all the decisions are made, said Waechter.

Waechter has conducted business for the city of Grafenwoehr for 28 years and is currently in his sixth term as mayor. He works closely with the Army regarding development and projects in the training area and in the community. His day-to-day routine ensures the well-being of all citizens, both German and American, living and working in Grafenwoehr while maintaining the traditions of the small farm town.

Grafenwoehr is one of the oldest towns in this area and received its town charter in 1361, 131 years before Columbus discovered America, a fun fact that left the students in stitches.

"That's so old," whispered one second-grader in astonishment.