Still misty-eyed over reunions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 12, 2014

“I’ll never marry a soldier,” I said to my best friend seated beside me in the majestic Alabama Theatre in Birmingham. It was the early1950s. We were watching ‘The Flying Leathernecks,” a World War II movie starring John Wayne and Robert Ryan. Several times during that movie, I had dabbed my eyes with a tissue to wipe away tears. I married a soldier. A little over a year later, I experienced my introduction to the heartache of military family separations and the joy of reunions. During my husband’s military career, when he told me, “I’m on orders,” it set my heart racing and tears welling in my eyes. How I dreaded those words. When orders came that first time, he was stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C. We were expecting our first child. I felt as if my world was crumbling when he departed for Whittier, Alaska, for a year’s tour of duty. The tears flowed when we parted, but I settled in with my parents, awaiting his letters and the birth of our son. Then, after what seemed like forever, word came. He was coming home! I still remember the dress I wore the day my mother drove our infant son and me to the Birmingham Terminal Station to meet his train. It was one of the most joyful days of my life when my handsome soldier appeared and enveloped us in his arms. He returned for duty at Fort Jackson. When I heard those heart-wrenching words, “I’m on orders to Germany,” that sinking feeling returned. That time it did not hurt as much. I knew I would follow him soon. Yet I still could not suppress the tears. Four months later, I, with our son, and our 18 month-old daughter, stepped off a train at Bamberg, Germany, into his waiting arms. What a happy reunion. During his Germany tour, he spent six weeks twice a year at Hohensfels Training Area. I hated to see him go, but there were no tears. Sometimes though, it was a time when things went wrong for me. Once, both the children got sick and ran high temperatures. One day, my husband called from the field to tell me to ride the post bus to an office outside the gate to buy car insurance. Our insurance company had gone bankrupt. The Cuban Crisis occurred during a Hohensfels duty. It scared me when I heard it on Armed Forces Radio. Fortunately, his unit was not called out. We were notified when our men would return from Hohensfels so we could meet the weary soldiers. It was always a happy reunion time. It almost brings me to tears when I watch coverage of families seeing their beloved warriors off for foreign duty. I cannot suppress happy tears when I watch returning military members greeted by their loved ones, especially children. Because I broke my teenage vow and married a soldier, I can identify with both the sad and happy moments those families experience.