Treasure every moment

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

As a friend and I had lunch together this week, our conversation drifted to our days as the wives of career army men. We spoke of our experiences while stationed overseas, our “adventures” as we traveled in foreign countries, of the heartbreak of separations and the joy of reunions.

Later that day, a flood of memories swept over me. We were expecting our first child when my husband received orders to Alaska. I was heartbroken. It was my initial experience facing the inevitable separations of military families. I moved back home with my parents, wrote to my husband several times a week, gave birth to our son, and was proudly holding the infant in my arms at his homecoming a year later. My heart overflowed with happiness that day.

A shorter separation occurred several years later when my husband left for a three-year tour in Germany. I couldn’t hold back the tears as we said goodbye again. Five months later, I boarded a plane with our son and 18-month-old daughter on the first leg of our journey to join him in Bamberg, Germany. We departed on a ship from Brooklyn Navy Yard and arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany ten days later. An overnight train ride took us to Bamberg. On that long rail trip, I stared out the window into the dark, listening to the shrill, lonesome sound of the train whistle, and wondered what in the world I was doing there. But with dawn of day and our arrival at Bamberg into the arms of my husband, my apprehension turned to joy.

During that Germany tour, the Cuban Crisis and the erection of the Berlin Wall occurred. Alert calls pierced the calm of the night or jarred the stillness of the wee hours of the morning. My husband jumped out of bed, threw on his uniform, and rushed off to his company. we never knew when those alert calls came whether they meant practice or were for real.

One day when my husband was on maneuvers, my telephone rang. “I called to let you know your husband is okay,” an unfamiliar voice said. There had been an accident with an amphibian vehicle and apparently, the word had spread like wildfire on post. While the phone call was intended to calm dependents’ fears, it was frightening. I was so relieved when my husband plodded in tired and weary that night.

One February night, a fire erupted in our apartment building. We watched from a friend’s balcony across the street while firemen struggled to spray water that was freezing in the hoses. Water and smoke damaged our apartment, but did not lose any personal belongings. We shared our friends’ quarters until we were assigned another apartment.

There were happy times as well as the trying times I mentioned during those 32-months. It was then that I learned a lifetime lesson—to treasure each minute families have together. The possibility of separation always hovered in the background.