Real Army Wives: Sarah, Short and Cute

Real Army Wives Series Meet Sarah

left to right: Elsie, Kayla, Sarah, Me, & Cloe. Kayla’s sister was behind us.

***This post is part of the series The Real Army Wives. For last week’s post about The Coffee Group, click here.***

Okay, you may or may not get my title reference there to the children’s book, Sarah Plain and Tall, which you should totally read to your children. It’s such a great book.

I still vividly recall the day I met Sarah.

(I even have some adorable photos of Sarah…..but I left town for Hurricane Irma and didn’t pack my photo albums, so you will have to wait for those…….)

It was one of those oddly eventful days. Before Alan’s unit ever left, they hosted a Unit Sports Day, which was a fun way to break up the monotony of all the waiting for deployment.

It was February, so I wore these blue, bootcut, work-out pants I had with a white Alabama t-shirt tucked into it. My, how fashion has changed. I promise it was not weird in early 2003 to tuck in your t-shirt. It’s funny that I can often remember what I was wearing but never what anyone else was wearing…

Fort Hood had a policy of pulling people over for “random” car inspections, even if you did have your car dashboard military ID sticker in place as well as your personal military ID card. Sometimes it seemed like the inspections weren’t all that random.

That day the NCOIC, which means non-commissioned officer in charge, decided to pull me over for a random inspection. Of course, I was running late and nervous about even finding the sports day location, so I was annoyed by this. However, I complied like a good little citizen. For some reason I even had to get out of the car, though I have no idea why.

Once they were all finished inspecting my Grand Am and my paperwork, this staff sergeant handed me back my ID and said, “All done. You got a nice ass!”

Say wha??????  Well, that did rattle me a bit, but I spoke not a word, got back into my Grand Am, and drove on in a billion circles until I finally found the sports day location. I probably had to call Alan on the way there lost, knowing my typical pattern in the pre-GPS days. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s still my pattern!

The Unit Sports Day consisted of several groups of soldiers running different lengths of races. That’s all I can recall from it, and then there was a food booth, run mostly by wives. I joined the wives at the food booth, and that was where I met Sarah.

I’m sure I told Sarah my gate car inspection story, but I’m not sure if I made a lovely first impression after being flustered over the gate guard and the getting lost. Unfortunately, I also told that story to Alan in front of a few of his co-workers, who all hooted and hollered and egged Alan on to go down there and say something to this man.

Well, Alan did go down there, but we could not find the offensive staff sergeant. Instead, we found a regular sergeant who griped about how the staff sergeants were coming down there as if the regular sergeants couldn’t handle overseeing the gate, which they didn’t appreciate.

It was probably best Alan didn’t get to talk to the guy in the heat of that moment anyway. Of course, Alan’s a big dude, but he’s also very mild-mannered. I wonder if he had thought through what he was going to say.

Back at the Sports Day booth, I guess we handed out chips and hotdogs or sold them as an FRG fundraiser. Sarah and I got to talking and hit it off so nicely. Sarah was 25, and I was 22, so we had that bond of youth. Neither of us had lived in the Fort Hood area for all that long. Sarah lived in Copperas Cove with her husband and her two dogs.

Sarah is hard to describe because there are many facets to her personality. She is all at once outgoing but timid in some situations. Sarah is of Mexican heritage, but she was raised in San Antonio and had never actually been to Mexico. Her Spanish is excellent though. She is fun-loving but highly responsible. Sarah was one of those people, like my friend Jennings, who just knew how to jump in and help. That’s a gift that some people have, a highly useful one, of innately knowing the helpful thing to do and doing it without anyone asking.

Sarah is also that kind of friend who will give you the shirt off her back if you say you are cold. Also, she did an excellent job of killing ants in my kitchen that week the ants came marching in.

Sarah was a godsend.

One thing that always made me laugh about Sarah was that she never called any of her friends by their names when she would tell stories. It wasn’t, “Oh, I was at Janice’s house.” Instead it was always, “I was at my friend’s house,” which almost made it sound like she had this one friend when truly she had many.

I was amused to find that Sarah, who could not have been an inch over 5 foot 1 inches tall, was married to an enormous African-American man named Zack, who must have been about 6 foot 3. I couldn’t tell you what he was like though because that was another thing about early 2003. All of our husbands left the country before you got to know any of them.

On that Unit Sports Day, Sarah and I decided to go ahead and leave before our husbands left. Sarah’s car had a run in with one of those dirt-devil type of mini-tornado storms that had completely smashed up her passenger door window. That left her car-less that day, so I gave her a ride home.

I thought I had a cute little duplex, but Sarah’s duplex in the Cove was much smaller because it only had two bedrooms and wasn’t in as nice of a neighborhood as mine was. Sarah let me come in and introduced me to her dogs. She even gave me a potted plant that sort of became my friend during that deployment and for a couple of years afterward. I remember moving with that plant onto base housing a year later and then even to Arizona in 2005.

Sarah was a great laugher and was better at having a handle on knowing how she felt than I was. I love to laugh with friends normally, but when I have a lot on my mind, I tend to space out. Intentionally, I shut the world out while I process. Phone calls go unanswered. Text messages do not get replied to, and I will even hide in my room rather than open the door to knockers.

After Alan left, it was time to space out. Sarah called frequently. She was reaching out to me, but I wasn’t answering. Most of the time I knew she was calling, but I was not ready to talk to people, not even to friends. I just wanted to be alone with my t.v. and my board games that I played versus myself. I realize it’s almost comical, me sitting in my living room playing 4 different hands of Skipbo against each other, but I don’t know what to tell ya. That was how I coped, that and many calls to 911, but you can go back and read that story if you missed it.

After my crazy-lady wake-up call, I called up Sarah and Elsie and invited them over.

Let me clarify that I wasn’t completely isolated. I saw my church friends Ashley, Theresa, and Wanda, on Sundays, at choir practice on Wednesdays, and at events. My neighbor Elsie and I talked frequently outside. Plus, Alan’s cousin Katie helped me out, checked on me, and even sent her husband over to cut my grass.  Then there was also the coffee group once a month. I wasn’t completely alone.

But this was part of my new GOAL, to begin to focus on others instead of just myself. I reached out first to Sarah and Elsie.

Elsie and Sarah probably do not even remember it, but it was huge for me because I was intentionally focusing on facing my problems and giving back to others just like me. That was what this was about. I wanted to gather these women and make a difference. We could do this together!!!

And I knew Sarah needed me because she had called and called, and I felt bad for being such an absent friend.

Sarah looked positively giddy when she knocked on my door around dinnertime, and held up a bottle of blackberry wine. I welcomed her in, and soon Elsie arrived. That very first night it was just the three of us because we had not yet met the rest of our group of mostly neighbors.

Was it blackberry wine or was it raspberry? It was something like that. The alcohol content was so low on it that you could freeze the whole bottle in the freezer. That wine was more sugar than anything else.

The only thing was that I don’t drink. I wasn’t sure what to do with this obviously thoughtful gesture, especially after having been such a bad friend. Elsie arrived, appearing pretty happy with Sarah’s wine too, so they urged me to open it.

I didn’t even have a wine bottle opener-thing, but we quickly discovered that it was a twisty cap anyway.

Well, the Bible does say that wine is for the miserable, and I didn’t want to let them all down, so I went ahead and partook. I’m sorry to tell you that it was quite delicious, and it became the sponsored drink of choice of our Army Wives group even though none of us were drinkers. (And don’t worry. I’m still not a drinker.)

Elsie and Sarah were the perfect friends for me. They were both jolly souls who seemed to be handling this deployment thing fathoms better than I was.

That night we ate and talked and laughed uproariously, and by the time Elsie and Sarah left I felt better than I had felt in ages. It’s amazing how uplifting the countenance of good friends can be!

It wasn’t the barely-even-wine or the food that brightened our hearts. It was each other, encouraging one another, and laughing and talking about a shared trial we were going through.

No one can relate to military life like a fellow military spouse can.

We were going to survive this year just fine after all, and did you know that we had all heard from our husbands in Kuwait too? The soldiers flew to Kuwait, where they lived in tent cities and were all able to call at least once. Then there was the month of silence as the 4th Infantry Division drove into Iraq, through Baghdad and set up camp.

Alan said they arrived to cheering crowds, though it didn’t stay that way as the months wore on. Alan arrived in Tikrit, they set up their tents or trailers there, and then I finally heard from Alan again, ending the month of silence, which had coincided with my month of hiding quietly in my house.

When Alan finally called from Tikrit, he gave me the phone number of a wife who also lived on my street named Cloe. Cloe’s husband was a soldier on Alan’s Fire Support Team, and she didn’t have a crew of Army Wives to hang out with yet either. She would be my next person to call to add to this newly formed little tribe.






Shock and Awe, March 22, 2003

The Last Visit

For a few minutes there, people began to joke that the 4th Infantry Division was never actually leaving for Iraq. By the first of March of 2003, the whole division was still waiting, and the other division in town, the 1st Cavalry Division, had orders as well. Some of the 1st Cav guys began to joke that the 1st Cav would beat the 4th ID to the punch after all. » Read more

Real Army Wives: When Reality Smacks You in the Face

Real Army Wives: When Reality Smacks You in the Face****Disclaimer: Links on this site are affiliate links. April collects a small advertising fee when you purchase through links on this website.*****

We left Oklahoma full of excitement over finally being together as a married couple. We were ON OUR WAY! Things were looking up for us. Alan and I were finally picking out our first house. Okay, so we were only 21 and 23. Maybe we’d settle for an apartment or a nice townhouse, but either way, it was going to be OURS, TOGETHER!

Eeeeee!!!! Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

But there was this one problem holding back our complete happiness. Dark, foreboding figures loomed in the corners of my mind. They looked like naysayers to me.

“I hear 4th Infantry Division is deploying to Turkey. Going in from the North,” Alan’s buddies at Officer Basic Course, back in Oklahoma, said.

Thankfully, everything was all “probably”, “maybe”, and “talk of the possibility.” There were no actual set-in-stone facts yet. (You see, at that point, America had not set foot in Iraq as part of the War on Terrorism yet. We were still only fighting in Afghanistan.)

“Ah, no one knows anything for sure, ” I comforted myself. “I’m not believing any of these rumors until I hear them from Alan’s soon to be unit in Texas.”

I always held out hope. This was my turn to finally begin my happily ever after, and all these gloom and doom storm clouds hovering all around me were ignored to the best of my ability.

Gray skies were everywhere, but the sun could come out at any moment. Not a drop of rain had fallen yet. Not a single lightning bolt had actually flashed. They just threatened.

With that mindset, we packed up Alan’s white Blazer and my bright royal blue Grand Am, arguing about the best way to make it all fit, and headed south.

I don’t remember where we were. It was somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Texas. But neither Alan nor I have ever forgotten that day. I’ve never forgotten that punch-in-the-gut from out of nowhere feeling.

Since we were driving two separate cars, Alan didn’t even know what happened, but when he saw me pull over, he pulled over too.

Real Army Wives: When Reality Smacks You in the Face

Just like on 9/11, I heard it from my radio. It was somewhere around January 15, 2003. I was all singing at the top of my lungs, until the news came on.

That’s when the news man announced that it was officially released, just that day, that 4th ID did indeed have orders to deploy their division to the northern border of Iraq in preparation for invasion.

Just like that, I was Chicken Little, and my thunder clouds had all just dropped their rain at once. The lightning was everywhere. The thunder was louder than the news on my radio. The rain was so thick I couldn’t see in front of me.

My heart was broken. I was bawling my eyes out. How could this happen? Why did this have to be? Our happily ever after just kept slipping further and further away.

I’d finally gotten to spend a week with my husband, and even that week we’d traveled to all our family’s houses and then come back for him to go out to the field, so really we’d been married 5 MONTHS and still had not spent one regular week together in a home of our own.

There was nothing to say, and not a thing in the world anyone could do to help us.

So in that moment, I did the only sensible thing.

I pulled my car over, laid my head on my steering wheel, and I cried. Alan came over to my car, and I had to explain to him what I’d heard on the radio.

Alan probably wasn’t surprised. He was more connected to the military community, so he understood better that this was coming. Of course, he was not feeling the same way I was. Alan is an Army officer. This was his dream. He was only too willing to go over there and fight some war.

If I said one prayer of lamentation, I said a 1,000. Many petitions were made for Alan’s safety, for direction with my life, for guidance with my next step.

But that first day, I just cried. Bravery was for later. Alan hugged me and apologized and held me while I blubbered.

Reality had reached out and smacked me in the face, so it was time I looked her in the eye. I buckled under the weight of it all, with hours left to drive.

Alan and I dried up my face, hugged, and we drove on.

For last week’s chapter, click here. To start at the beginning of this series, go here.


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