Beginning to Meet the Real Army Wives of 2003

***This post is a chapter in the series The Real Army Wives of 2003, appearing each Monday morning on Storiesofourboys.com.***
Beginning to Meet the Real Army Wives of 2003

Back then I loved unpacking all the boxes.

Moving into a new house always makes me euphorically happy.
What could thrill a feminine soul more than a fresh new house full of possibilities?

I vividly remember each “not it” home we looked at when we arrived in Texas in January, 2003. But then we found “it.” We found THE ONE.

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Army Wives Series: The First Good-bye and Watching the News

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Real Army Wives series post, so where were we?

Oh, yes, Alan and I were engaged. The Army was starting to encroach on my plans and change my life. Hahahahahaha Oh boy, did I have no idea what was ahead or what!

Behind? You can catch up here with part 1, part 2,and the others weren’t exactly part of the story, per se, so we are really only on part 3 here.

Probably 99% of military couples plan their wedding date around a deployment, a move, a temporary duty assignment, or training.

For us, it was Officer Basic Course and my own college graduation. We could plan it for December or January, which was unstable because we were brand new to the military and didn’t know if that would work out…

Or we could plan the big day for August, exactly when Alan had about 10 days of leave between assignments.

So we went with the August plan.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Picture of a picture….Yes, we got married before digital photography was big…Funny story….A guest that we didn’t know caught the bouquet. She said, “Wow! I don’t even know her!” So Alyson, Alan’s cousin, snatched it up. That makes me smile.

The first good-bye

I said good-bye to Alan around May 30 that year. He was off to Ft. Lewis, Washington, and I was headed down to my parents’ house to spend the summer working, planning the wedding, and taking Genetics via distance learning.

This was our first ever attempt at a long distance relationship. Two whole months–which sounds laughable NOW.

But, oh! The drama!

You would have thought it was World War II, rather than…..Tacoma. We hugged and kissed, and made speeches, and it actually makes me roll my eyes and shake my head now to even think about it. Gracious.

Two months of separation between Alan’s commissioning and the wedding.

But that was nothing.

Once we got married, in August, we celebrated with a honeymoon to Jamaica, and then we drove from Alabama to Oklahoma to settle him into his BOQ. (Batchelor Officer’s Quarters)

I rode out there with him, spent a day there, and then I flew back to Alabama to finish my own degree, at the University of Alabama.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Yep. That was another 4 months of separation.

I don’t even think it’s that uncommon for military couples to spend the first months of their marriage apart. This has been a common theme throughout millenia of military couples.

As a newlywed 21-year-old young woman, it was agonizing.

How many times did I contemplate throwing it all out the window and moving to Oklahoma with my lieutenant? So many times! I could finish my degree anywhere, any time, why bother with all this? Ugh.

But my husband truly loved me, and was always looking out not only for his best interest, but for mine as well. Alan would not hear of me throwing away my degree only 4 months from completion.

Transferring to another college would have put all those credits at risk. I’d worked hard on this degree, and we both decided it would be best for me to stick it out and finish that last semester at UA.

…Even if I felt like I was the only married lady on campus. Actually, I wasn’t the only one, but I WAS the only married gal still working as a Resident Assistant, living alone, in the freshman girls’ residence hall, Tutwiler.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

My 3 closest friends junior and senior year: That’s me, Jennings, Leigh, and Chrisynda

But I was with my friends, and that made it doable. How many times have my friends kept me sane over all these years? Two things, y’all, there were two things that always got me through these obstacles.

  1. My faith in my heavenly Father. He’s seen me through too much for me to ever doubt Him.
  2. The support of my friends and family.

Around that time, speculation began to circulate about the possibility of war with Iraq.

It was the fall of 2002. We had troops in Afghanistan, not in Iraq, but the news kept building. I remember the day Chrisynda came to my room to tell me to turn on my t.v.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Chrisynda and me, 2002

Chrisynda was one of my best friends, a tallish, slender brunette with straight shoulder-length hair, and a positive attitude. She was the Alan of my friends: super responsible, practical, level-headed, beautiful, kind, caring, and fun, but always well-balanced.

She’s just one of those people who seems to know things. She was the friend who would keep my favorite snack in her room. She’d come to my room with a Walmart bag containing batteries because she knew that if she wanted to watch t.v. in my room, someone would need to put batteries in my remote control. April did not have money to spare for batteries. For Guthrie’s fried chicken tenders? Yes, I had money for that. For batteries? Never.

I remember Chrisynda came into my room, and she probably brought food with her too, and she turned on the news. It is permanently lodged in my brain how she asked me about the Iraq news.

“Did you see this Iraq stuff?”

I muttered something about avoiding all that news and hoping it wouldn’t happen. I like to live happily in denial.

“Ehh…I’m pretty sure we’re going, April. It’s happening. Do you think Alan will go?” She was so polite, but she leveled the facts with me that I don’t think anyone else wanted to talk about.

Time stood still. Wait. What? I gotta start watching the news? The news….the news…

The news was suddenly intruding into my life. It was more than a channel to flip past. What we were seeing on t.v. was affecting me directly. It had always affected me, whether I realized it or not, but now I was in the front of the line of dominoes!!

Ever since, I’ve never been able to form a non-partial opinion on anything politically related. I always think, “Wait. How will this affect me? Or this friend, or my parents, or my children?”

Some people remain objective much better than I do, but I cannot do it.

So there we were…..young newlyweds…we’d been apart for 6 months, with short breaks in between, and now there was talk of war with Iraq.

The questions swirled around me, but what could I do? How could I know anything?

All a person can do in any situation at all is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. What needs to be done today? Do that. How do I stay spiritually and physically fit to handle all this? Do that too.

Pray. Hope. Love. Cling to the good. Always hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and life went on.

Army wives series the first good-bye and watching the news

Come back next Monday for the next installment!

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com

 

 


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The Real Army Wives #1: Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I was supposed to get up at 7:30 to be at work at 8:30 that morning, but I overslept, such a typical college student I was…Instead, I woke up at 9:10am for my 10am Anatomy and Physiology class. I had put off my shower long enough that it was non-negotiable that morning.

You see, I was a junior at the University of Alabama, and I had the hard-earned privilege of a private room, thanks to my job as a resident assistant in the largest freshman dormitory on campus, Tutwiler Hall.

I had my radio on while I was getting ready. Before I got into the shower, the D.J. mentioned that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center (north tower).

I paused in consternation. “What!? Weird.” That was puzzling, but I went ahead and took my shower.

The thing I will never forget is that moment when I got out of the shower, and I had my towel wrapped around me like a dress, and the man on the radio told us about the 2nd airplane hitting the other tower (south tower).

I immediately sat down.

“Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa. Wait. What? What is happening?”

I listened intently. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to turn on my t.v. to watch coverage of this. It’s like I was stuck in 1930, listening to my personal stereo. I suppose I was too shocked to think anything at all besides, “What is happening?? Are we at war? What will happen next??”

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

My Fall 2001 Journal.

They didn’t have much more information to give us that morning. What could they say? Unsure what else to do, I went about my normal routine.  I put my clothes on in a daze and walked the half-mile to my anatomy class, hoping to hear some reassuring words or just more information, from my professor.

Instead, I entered what felt like the Twilight Zone. Seemingly, no one in my class had any idea that it had happened. Probably they didn’t. The professor certainly didn’t know. He taught class as usual, and I absorbed absolutely nothing that Dr. Graham said.

Have you ever felt like you knew the world was ending, and no one around you had a clue?

And you start to wonder if you misunderstood? That one hour, on 9/11/01, I felt that way, which is funny because I was normally the one who was notorious for not being up on current events. Watching the news wasn’t my thing. I’ve always been more of a bookworm than a t.v. person.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I arrived to my 11am class, Psychology Research Methods, and the professor marched in and canceled class. Finally! I didn’t imagine all of this! I’m not crazy. This really did happen. Now I was free to talk about it.

There was a resident on my floor, named Stacy, who was from New York City. I had a burning urgency in my chest to get ahold of her. I left her notes on her door, I looked for her, I called her, and I prayed and hoped her parents didn’t work at the Towers.

She found me that afternoon and reassured me that all of her folks were present and accounted for. It wasn’t easy back then. This was 2001. Most of us did not have cell phones, and the regular lines were jammed with so many people calling that I heard reports that it was hard to get a call through.

Stacy told me this story:

“My parents are good. Everyone is fine. Even my aunt! This is incredible because this is the 2nd time my aunt has been rescued from harm in the towers. My aunt works in the WTC, but she had gone across the street to get coffee this morning. She saw the crash happen from a window and went straight home from there. My aunt is a faithful prayer warrior, and she says God has protected her, and it was not her time to go yet. She was spared once before, during the 1993 WTC bombing. She happened to be at home sick with the flu that day.”

Then Stacy went home to New York City to be with her people for the rest of that week. It was just as well. She didn’t miss anything.

The world stood still that week. 

Airplanes were grounded. Ball games were canceled. Tests were postponed. Candles were lit everywhere. You couldn’t walk a mile on campus without running across candles or a group of praying people.

I’ll never forget holding hands in a giant circle on the University of Alabama quad. There must have been 100 or more of us, both teachers and students. There were Jews, Christians, and agnostics all standing there praying together, between classes. We sang hymns too, though I don’t recall which ones. It was an empowering thing to be a part of.

In my journal that day, I wrote that “What worries me is–what if more awaits for tomorrow–or next week.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

My actual journal entry. Yes, you can laugh at me about the Pentagon bomb, but it was early, and I didn’t have all the facts straight yet.

I was only 20 years old at the time. I was a full-time student with 2 part-time jobs. Alan was just a guy in a group of friends that I ate lunch with on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

After 9/11, I looked at Alan differently.

On Wednesdays, the ROTC cadets wore their uniforms all day long, so the day after 9/11, I saw Alan in his uniform at lunch. Alan was the top ranking cadet at Alabama. He was an impressive looking young soon-to-be-officer in the United States Army, standing at 6 foot 3, 225 pounds, in his size 15 combat boots. Alan has a strong jaw line and an air of authority and strength about him, but once you get to know him you realize that he is also exceedingly kind, reasonable, disciplined, and even funny.

I asked him how he felt about all this.

Alan was so business-like and serious in his response to my question.  He said matter-of-factly, “We are always ready to go to war and defend this country, to keep Americans safe and defend our freedom. Always ready.”

“You’re not worried? This will affect you directly. You aren’t afraid?”

“No. This is what we train for. I can’t wait to go.”

Maybe that was the day I started to like him, though I didn’t know it at the time. At the very least, it was the day I began to deeply respect him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

a Crimson White clipping I saved from those days after 9/11

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How September 11 would affect us

The already married military spouses knew they would soon be called upon to make humongous sacrifices.

As we watched all the sacrifices that the firemen, policemen, and rescue workers were making on 9/11 and the time following, we held our breath with them. We cried for them.

How could I know that someday my children and I would make sacrifices too, and that so many families would give all?

When you are enduring hardships for your country, like sending your husband overseas for months on end, over and over again, you need a good reason for that. 9/11 is always the reason I remind myself of.

When Daddy misses a whole year of birthdays….that’s for 9/11.

When I ate my 1 year anniversary wedding cake alone…..9/11.

When Christmas feels lonely……..9/11.

When I had to shepherd my son through the confusing and scary seizures and testing for epilepsy without my husband there to share the burden…….9/11.

And I remember what Alan said in 2001. It held true for all of these years, though no one ever wants war. War is a horrible thing, but on that day the terrorists attacked us first. They left us no choice.

“We are always ready to go to war and defend this country, to keep Americans safe and defend our freedom. Always ready,” and I am proud to be the flip-flops back home, supporting the boots on the ground overseas.

Every Monday: a new installment of The Real Army Wives blog series on storiesofourboys.com

This is just the beginning of my series of The Real Army Wives, stories from the home front of the War on Terrorism. 

The next installment: It was Time to Meet the Army

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Were you already a military spouse or have a compelling 9/11 story to tell? I’d love to share it on Storiesofourboys.com. Please send your submission to april@storiesofourboys.com. Feel free to just send me your article or just your idea to see if it fits in with what I have planned. Thank you!

 

 

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