I Was A Military Wife

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My husband was a military man who served his country for over 20 years. He served a few months in the National Guard, then enlisted in the United States Air Force.

We were a military family. I was a military wife. When he retired from the Air Force, I, too, received a beautiful bound certificate denoting my sacrifices as the wife of a military man. When he was frequently called for overseas peacetime duty, it was my responsibility to keep the homefires burning so that he could concentrate on his military duties.

Most of his career, my husband served in Strategic Air Command and was a flight crew member on a KC-135 air refueling tanker. His job as a boom operator was to transfer fuel from his aircraft to another while both planes were in midair. Though my husband was an enlisted man, all other members of the flight crew were officers. He was proud of his job and his ability to perform well. He eventually became a boom operator instructor.

My husband practiced his skill over and over for many years so that he would be prepared should our country go to war. Often he pulled alert whereby he stayed in a sequestered alert barracks on the airbase and practiced simulated war. He flew missions during that time and had briefings concerning those flights.

His practice flights, both stateside and overseas, served him well during the Vietnam War.

His crew flew many sorties (missions) during that unpopular war. His job was to refuel B-52 bombers and small fighter jets that were flying combat missions over Vietnam. Several of his B-52 cohorts from Blytheville Air Force Base died during that war.

My two children remember those many times during their growing up years when they hugged their goodbyes to their daddy just before he boarded a military plane for temporary overseas duty (TDY's). He was gone during many holidays, including Christmases and Thanksgivings. Wives of military men got used to the idea that their men would be absent during anniversaries, the birth of their children, graduations and other memorable moments. The wives banded together in their own unique sorority.

Oftentimes it seemed that civilians were only sympathetic to military families when there was a war going on.

For the first four years of my married life my husband and I lived on a meager paycheck. We pinched pennies so that we could have the basic necessities. We lived in rented duplexes in Louisiana, crowded base housing in Washington State and Indiana, one-story apartment rows in California, a one-bedroom converted garage in New Mexico, and a one-room apartment in San Antonio. In a couple of those places, we had to share one bathroom with other families. It was a much different lifestyle than we were accustomed to. Until then, both of us had lived all our growing up years in one town, protected by family and community.

My daughter told me, much later, that while she was growing up she felt she had no roots, no place she could call home. Her classmates had a hometown, but she had none because of our military moves. She did, however, form friendships in high school; friendships that continue across the miles.

This week on the television screen when I saw tearful wives saying goodbye to their uniformed husbands, I remembered those feelings of old.....the sadness, the loneliness and fear.

I share their feelings at this terrible time of war. Military wives need the support of the civilian community as they cope on the homefront. In a sense, they serve their country too.