We have spent increased time at the Veteran’s Hospital this past month. Appointments and classes and tests have given us the chance to drive up to the mountains and spend some of our days at this facility.
Yesterday, we were there for an appointment for my hubby. Some friends of ours went along with us, keeping us company. It was wonderful to have them with us and she commented a couple of times, how honored she was to be there, seeing the men and women who have served this great country of ours.
I readily agreed, and once more, as I usually do, started looking at the men and women heading into their appointments. There were a couple who looked like they had served in WWII, a few more that looked like they had served in Korea, and a lot of our precious Viet Nam vets. Some of them were young and had on Wounded Warrior shirts and you could tell they were our newest veterans.
This time, though, I looked at the women who were pushing wheelchairs, helping men with walking, and those sitting beside their men waiting with them. These women. These spouses who have served along side these heroes. These women who kept the home fires burning. These faithful few.
I am one of them. Last night before falling asleep, I thought of these women. I thought of my story. Adapting to military life did not come naturally. It was not second nature to me at first. We were married on a Saturday, on Monday we were in the office at my husband’s command getting my military I.D. card. At the time, there were stacks of papers to sign. I had only had my married name for two days. I had to sign my married name on each of those papers. I concentrated. I was purposeful. I kept repeating to myself my new name. I had to, because hubby and the man behind the desk kept teasing me to not write my maiden name. I managed to sign several copies before they won. They laughed hysterically when I goofed up. I was not happy.
The next day, I went to get groceries. On the base. Alone. As I had dropped hubby off for work that morning, he sternly admonished me to not speed on base. I did my best, although, I couldn’t keep the car at 25 mph. . I did not get pulled over.
I went to pick up groceries. I had my list. But, this naive little girl from a small Northwestern Pennsylvania town never expected to see Filipinos. I had never seen anyone from another country. I had never heard Tagalog. I confess, I stared , a lot! Picking up hubby that day, I excitedly told him about the Chinese people in the commissary. He looked at me. Actually he stared at me. He told me, it was not possible for someone from China to be able to shop on base. I stood my ground. I was adamant.
He took me back to the store just to see what I was talking about. There, by the frozen foods, a group of people were standing by their carts, talking. I pointed. Yes, I did, pointer finger out, and aiming directly at them. I was determined to prove how right I was. At this point, hubby leaned over and told me to stop pointing. I obeyed. He started to laugh. I really didn’t appreciate it. He explained to me that these “Chinese” people were from the Philippine Islands and they were, in fact, serving in the U.S. Navy.
At that point, I knew I would never adapt. I would never understand, and I would never survive the Navy life. I held back tears on the way home. This life was all too much for a small town girl.
Yes, the first few months of being married to a military guy was hard. It was confusing. It was different. Nevertheless, I persevered. Actually, I flourished. It became second nature to me. I learned the ebb and flow of how things worked. I learned how to cook Filipino food. I was stretched and pulled. Many times, I resisted, to no avail. The bases we were stationed at became familiar to me. Familiar like your hometown is. It was comforting for me to see men and women in uniform. To see salutes being passed. It is comforting still for me to see our uniformed military.
So, yesterday as we sat waiting for hubby to finish, I looked at these women. They are my people. They understand. They have been through similar situations as I have. They have looked at the cupboard on the 14th of the month, wondering how to stretch that last bit of food until tomorrow, when it is payday. We have rushed to the mailbox hoping for a letter, or even a note to just have a connection with a spouse who is deployed. We have sat alone on the floor in the dark, praying for our spouse’s safety. We have run our homes and done our duty. We have been creative in raising our children, making certain Daddy is always mentioned and pictures of him shown, so they have some connection to a parent miles away. We waited. At piers, at airfields, at airports, at staging grounds. We stood, sometimes for hours, until we could run and throw arms around our man.
And still, we wait. We wait as they slowly walk with canes or walkers. We wait as they visit and keep their appointments. Many of us are relics of the Cold War. We are the old folks the new veterans look at.
However, if you look closely, you will see a different story than the apparent one that is first visible. You can see a twinkle in the eye of the man in the wheelchair. A bit of playfulness, like he truly does want to pop a wheelie and race down the hall to his appointment. You can see in a walk that this man was once a force to be reckoned with, that yes and sir were directed his way daily. The women who helps her husband up out of the chair used to pull him up to hit the dance floor at the NCO club. Life is still there, it is just hidden a bit.
It is all just second nature now. It is my life. We may have retired years ago, but, that Navy wife is just dormant.
Thanks for stopping by today. I appreciate you. Cathi (DAF)