by Carol Huffman
I married the military at age nineteen. My first year of marriage my husband was in Southeast Asia in the dangerous mission of extracting downed airmen from combat zones. I had never been more than 50 miles from home and could not even drive when we married. During the Vietnam war servicemen were not honored and were treated shabby whenever they returned to the US. The old story of a serviceman being spit upon in airports is true.
We got our first assignment together at Eglin A.F.B., Florida. While there I gave birth to our first child, a son. Dwayne Allen was born in a small civilian hospital because the base hospital was short on OB/GYN doctors. The little hospital did not have a NICU, and at two days old, we lost our perfect little son. Over the next ten years we had 3 daughters. My daughters and I spent most of their growing up years alone. Their dad was always travelling for his job or working long hours and the mission came first. I was fortunate and could easily find work as a nurse to supplement our poor income.
My two older daughters and I went to Okinawa with him and lived downtown in a small concrete house. I did not know the language and it was a challenge paying utilities and just getting through the everyday things. While there, we experienced typhoons and earthquakes that Dwayne missed out on because he was on a mission somewhere. Still, we loved it there - the beaches were great. I missed my grandmother’s funeral and couldn’t be with my mom during her grief. There were no computers or communications when you were overseas. Letters were it. For three years my parents and family missed me and their granddaughters.
Being in the service is a lot like being married by yourself. When a child wakes up with a very high fever in the middle of the night you drag all the kids out with you to the base clinic. You go to work when you’ve been sleepless for long periods because you have a sick child or no child care. You pay the bills and stretch the finances and worry if your husband is somewhere that he won’t come home from. Because he often can’t tell you where he is going or when he will return. You teach the kids to drive and take them to church on Sunday, volunteer with their scout group and wish you had someone to just talk to.
You absorb the death of your mother and go thru a hysterectomy while your man is on a one year assignment overseas and you pray a lot.
I was always incredibly proud of my husband’s service. I am a patriotic person, and I feel I instilled it in my daughters. There is no greater country in the world. I served at home so he could serve. I was rewarded by the friendships I made and the life experience I could not have gotten anywhere else. I have awesome memories that balance the stress.
You have to keep a sense of humor and pray. And one day, the kids are all grown up and you don’t know where the time went.