What can I say about army life? It is a long, winding story.
In January of 1991, I headed off to Basic Combat Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
This is a picture someone snapped of me then. Oh to be that thin again!!
On February 2nd of 1991 at chapel service I met another young soldier, and we shared our thoughts on our new army life. Little did I know who this young kid would become. After that, we wrote letters to one another, made phone calls when we could, and always saw each other on Sundays at chapel.
March 10th, he wrote me another letter and asked me to marry him.
In April, we headed off to our individual training, me to Georgia, him to Virginia.
We met on a weekend pass, and on May 4th, 1991, we got married. We had never even been on a date. My parents, sister and grandparents drove down from Wisconsin for the wedding, at the Paulding County Courthouse in Dallas, Georgia, and Judge Fran Watson did the very simple service.
The next day, we went back to our training posts.
Fast forward over the years, and we have had three children. Jennifer, born in Virginia, Joshua born in Tennessee, and Jack born in Germany. I’m of course not in the army any more, and I had a couple jobs over the years, but after becoming a mother, there was no place I wanted to be more than home.
We loved the stability my being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) brought to our house. My husband went here, there and everywhere because of his job, but the kiddos always knew that Mom would be there. There was never a time that they would come home from school or wherever (before we homeschooled), that Mom wasn’t there. Many military families are dual-working homes. They have to be. It is not easy living on a military pay check, but for us, the sacrifice was worth it. No, we may not have gone on fancy vacations, or had the newest, best things out there, but our children had what matters. It also fostered an appreciation for the value of what we were blessed with. Our children are not materialistic, and I am grateful to God for their level-headedness, and understanding of value.
But I digress…..
We started out in Virginia, as our first duty assignment. That is where Jennifer was born.
In the summer of 1993, we moved to Fort Hood, Texas.
A year later, he went to Korea for a year in June ’94. I moved to Tennessee to stay while he was gone. We found out the day we got to Tennessee, that we were expecting our second child. Joshua was born during his Korea tour. Thankfully he was able to take leave in the middle, fly home, and be there for the birth of our son. The army doesn’t pay for that, so we scrimped and saved every penny to fly him home from Korea.
A picture I took of Jen and me with my pregnant belly, to mail to Jeff while he was in Korea.
After the year over there, we were assigned to Fort Hood again, so back to Texas the end of June ’95.
Five months later, movers were back at our house, and loading everything up to go to Germany. We arrived there November 28th, 1995. Joshua was 9 months old, and Jennifer was almost three.
A month later, he went to Bosnia for a year. This is where he lived and slept during that time.
While he was home for his R&R – two week break from Bosnia.
Shortly after he returned from Bosnia, we were expecting our third child. Jack was born in Germany several months later.
In spring of 1998, we moved back to the states, this time to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
We were there for 12 years.
After 9-11, he deployed to Iraq two times, back to back. The first, thankfully was only 4 months long. But it was a rough one. There was VERY little communication, and part way through the deployment, our youngest had a scary accident and severely broke his leg. All he wanted was his Daddy, and the doctors in the hospital assured him, “You’re Daddy will be here soon, we’ll tell him.” Then Jack sobbed, “But my daddy’s in the desert.” Imagine seeing grown men and women having to hide their faces, turn away, and choke back tears. Iraq had just begun a few short months prior, and all this little boy with the bent leg cared about was his Daddy….and they had made a promise they hadn’t even realized they couldn’t keep.
These two photos…the raw emotion on Jennifer’s face, to this day still chokes me up.
We were so glad to have him home, but a couple months later, his unit was sent right back. This time for 9 months.
We were able to enjoy his being home for two whole years before he was sent away again in 2006. OIF #3, but this time it was the full year tour that we are so very used to.
His whole family was able to be there as well.
Then in April of 2009, he was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time.
This was an hour before he left.
This is a picture I found on the internet, where his group had stopped at an airport to refuel. The people (Pease Greeters) there were wonderful, and treated them so kindly.
Homecomings never come soon enough. This one came as a surprise to the kiddos on April 1st, 2010, when he finally came home.
And then… after being stationed there for 12 years, we finally did a PCS (military move) to Alaska.
On August 1st, 2010, we loaded up our van and hooked up our little camper and hit the road.
We travelled across the country, visiting family along the way, heading up through Canada, driving the Alaskan Highway. We saw many amazing and breath-taking sights, both in the US and in Canada.
The Badlands, South Dakota
Bijioux Falls, British Columbia
Muncho Lake, British Columbia
Watson Lake Signpost Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon Territory
Boreal Forest, Yukon Territory
Old army trucks used to build the Alaskan Highway, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
Beautiful Mountains in the Yukon
Something we have waited to see for about as long as I can remember!
Not to mention some great wildlife.
We lived the ultimate adventure in the “Final Frontier.”
And finally, after arriving in Alaska, Jeff deployed once again to Iraq for the 4th time. He arrived home in early December, 2011.
And then in May 2013, we loaded up the camper and truck and did that whole massive trip all over again!
Our final destination? Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. RSA was our final duty station – and a couple years later he “dropped papers” and we joined the community of Army Retirees.
Now we have a homestead and are planting roots for the first time, here in the land of sweet tea.