The other day, just like so many other days, we drove onto a military post. This happens almost daily. Sometimes we go through the guarded entrance multiple times in a single day. Such is the life of people in the service. And it becomes so much ‘the norm’ that on the rare occasions I bring a ‘civilian’ in with me and have to fill out a visitor’s pass, I find it entertaining how the novelty of being allowed ‘on the base’ can possibly be held in any spectrum of excitement for anyone. The same old show your id, wait for the little gate to go up, and drive through is part of my mundane routine.
But today, as we drove onto Rammstein for a second time, something hit me in a new light. As my husband handed the E4 (maybe E5) our id’s, the less than 10 second conversation went something like this:
“Hey sir, ma’am.”
“hey, how’s t’going.”
“livin’ the dream.”
“yeah, sounds ‘bout right. Stay warm, brother. Take it easy”
More was exchanged in those 21 words than can quite be understood when just reading the short dialogue in black and white. There was a bond between these two men, my husband and the young man on duty, that existed instantaneously. The sincerity of feeling in what may look like colloquialisms runs deeper than what appears to be catch phrases. They were speaking the same language, communicating concisely what shared experiences in military service put into those phrases that make them more profound. Each expression held empathy and weight as the young man, seeing my soldier’s position in the quick glance of an id card, knew immediately that the man in the car understood and experienced his own scenarios of ‘gate guarding’ – as the three simple words, “stay warm, brother,” conveyed. His response was not just wrapping up a 10 second routine, it was honest gratitude expressed for a fellow soldier giving him the brief acknowledgement he deserved for being out in the snow, doing his duty, and doing that menial task with…well, if not quite a smile, a visible good attitude.
All this hit me as we rounded the bend to the post exchange. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen such exchanges over and over (although where we are stationed now, the personnel of the base is so small, the task of gate duty is out-sourced; not that the non-military personnel are no less friendly or appreciated, but it lacks the ‘buddy in arms’ connection that a military post with military personnel manning it has). As we got ready to go into the mini-mall of this larger post, I told myself that I must try to get this written down.
We enjoyed a little stroll and some shopping, but were interrupted by a new event that I have not experienced before. In the middle of my Love wanting to spoil me and buy a lovely Irish wool sweater (one of the benefits of an overseas post, vendors from nearby European countries bring their lovely wares in for eyeballing right in our own little shopping centers…though I rarely buy from them), there was an announcement over the loudspeaker:
“Attention, all customers and employees, there is an emergency. Please exit the building immediately at the North entrance. I repeat, this is an emergency – please gather your belongings quickly and exit the building.”
Now this was new. I was not nervous, everyone around me seemed calm, moved with purpose but not uncontrolled by any means to the exit, chatting as they went. Once outside, we asked a couple of people if they knew what was going on. Then my husband saw the bomb squad headed over toward what is I think the airstrip and airport.
There was no explosion, no chaos, just people casually leaving, or gathering in small groups to talk and maybe wait out the shut-out, and I heard plenty of people making jokes like wanting to get out and play in the snow anyway. We needed to make the 2 hour drive back home, so that won over my curiosity to stick around and see what the result was (bomb threat or false alarm?) and my desire to buy that lovely grey sweater.
I certainly hope that this second occurrence never becomes as ‘mundane and routine’ as the first. I pray our military posts remain a place of safety. Unfortunately, there have been few and far between cases of tragedy inside those guarded walls. I do worry how much longer these rare incidents will stay just that – rare. I wonder if being an American military wife will continue to seem like a secure life situation, despite the irony in my better half coming face to face with such dangers as a fact of his job. I don’t know the outcome of the emergency call (or if I will have the privilege of finding out). But I do know that, for now, we’ll be passing through those check points plenty of times as always. Maybe from this point on though, I’ll remember to have respectful recognition for the security surrounding the doorways to military life as well as those keeping that door secure.