Typical Military Exchanges, and not-so-typical Modern Occurrences

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”

“Everyday. Thanks.”

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.

*I did end up being able to find out that the incident was just an empty threat, and the individual was apprehended quickly. Just so you know everything on the base was calm and quiet. False alarm, thank goodness.

Army Wives, 173rd version

You probably heard about the show Army Wives that aired from 2007-2013. As an army wife, there were things about that show that made me laugh, that I agreed with, that made me cry. And then, of course, there were plenty of things that made me shake my head at how Hollywood can really take something too far – but I bet you’ve never heard of The Battle Hard wives of the 173rd.

Maybe one day, you will. Maybe one day, we’ll share our stories for the world to see. I know that long ago, in my introduction and reasons for blogging, I said I wouldn’t be naming my military appreciation by name, but this time I have permission. I won’t share all their names – the first wives I encountered in Italy many years ago. But at least one hero among them: her name is Colleen Wood.

In the lives of many army wives, this woman’s name will always be held in a place of honor. If there was a purple heart for keeping spouses sane, caring for single soldiers, running amazing FRGs, holding the hands of newly arrived ladies in the face of uncertain and difficult deployments, making difficult phone calls to the states, and later continuing to carry the banner of support years after her duties are fulfilled, I have to be completely biased and say there is only one FRG leader that would take all. And how does she do it? And still be mom to 3 boys, love and support her husband, be a teacher and friend, and balance life’s ups and downs? I don’t know, maybe she’ll write a book one day and tell us 🙂 One token that she has contributed recently was by starting a journal for The Battle Hard Wives for us to remember that very uncertain deployment to Iraq, now over 10 years ago.DSC02658.jpgI’m the latest Battle Sister to have this priceless journal in my living room. I’ll be adding stories of my own to our thoughts, reflections, tears, encouragement, rants, and whatever else comes out of our hearts and fills the pages, after some of those feelings have lain dormant for a while. When Colleen first took the time to reach out to us all, get the wives connected again, and set out on her mission of a joint journal, I did not really understand how important and impactful this will be. We went through a life changing event together: sending our husbands and loved ones on a deployment that began with the first jump into combat for the 173rd since Vietnam, with so many unknowns in being part of the initial invasion that our need for each other was stronger than our military connection had already begun by already being stationed overseas. We relied on each other so much in those 13 months. And now, we are remembering.12295478_10208420553731345_6430159626114761740_n.jpgColleen Wood, I hope you know how much of a hero you are in our hearts: and I hope we can let you know how much we appreciate all you’ve done and continue doing by sharing our stories and reaching out to others with the same care.