This morning my wife sent me this picture with the question, “Is this true?”
So of course the nerd in me set to work finding out:
Then I located the CNBC story talking about it. Yesterday (February 5th) marked 10,316 days since the Berlin Wall came down. When it came down it had existed for longer than I had been alive. Now it’s been gone longer than that.
A life-changing event
As world events go, the fall of the Wall had the second biggest impact on my life. 9/11 of course made the biggest impact, but as someone who grew up in the military and was serving at that time, life was significantly different before and after November 9, 1989.
Growing up on military bases, the fact that the Soviet Union was there with nuclear weapons pointed at us meant that impending doom was kind of always in the back of the mind. I remember talking to my friends about what we’d do if World War III happened. Movies like War Games, Red Dawn, and The Day After fed that fear.
When I joined the Air Force in 1988, we operated in a Cold War posture. Basically we presented a large force ready to fight. Our main emphasis was deterrence. So while we were all “ready to go” if the Soviets invaded, we also knew in the back of our minds that the chances of it really happening were minimal. We had a couple people in our unit who were “on mobility”. They got all the training to be mobilized in the event of a war, and the rest of us worked to keep the base running.
After the Wall and the Soviet Union fell, the world changed. There was no longer a single, large enemy for us to be ready to fight.
On December 20, 1989, the US invaded Panama, capturing Manuel Noriega a few weeks later. Then, in August of 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. When I first heard about that, my first thoughts were, “Who’s Saddam Hussein and where is Kuwait?” Really, though, Operation Just Cause in Panama and Desert Shield/Desert Storm were the signs of the new military environment. We went from a stable, large deterrent force to an agile, highly mobilized force. Instead of the exception being on mobility, deployment became a thing that everyone experienced during their career.
My brother was actually in Berlin the night the Wall came down, and got to take some of the first pieces of it. I have one of those I keep in my office. It’s a piece of history that had a drastic effect on my life.