Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Meanderings

With Memorial Day in our rearview mirror, I'm sad to say, our house was the only one on our block displaying an American Flag. I remember years ago when those banners blew in the breeze on almost every house. My heart goes out to all of the military and civillian folks who lost their lives or limbs, or minds while at war. My mother used to say that there were so many alcoholics because so many folks witnessed war. I suppose that's true.

My former husband was drafted during the Vietnam War,and lost some of his buddies, but fortunately he was stationed in Alaska at the Army Arctic Test Center. Our worst enemy was the arctic cold, 50 below zero. I was allowed to join him after he received permission from his commanding officer. I can't say that I was a veteran, but some days it felt like I was military personell. We received a small extra stipend, "down the road pay" because we were in a hostile environment living off post, but we never had enough money at the end of the month to even buy a six cent postage stamp. We lived on hamburger and tuna fish. We had a woolen, olive drab army blanket that we covered with. Our silverware included the big spoon, fork and knife from his mess kit which had to be polished for inspection each month. I had to handwash and wring his woolen fatigues, talk about heavy! We heated with diesel fuel and cooked with propane (which ran dry on Thanksgiving day as I was roasting the bird - a chicken). We lived in a trailer that had doll sized sink, appliances, cabinets and bathroom. The climate was dangerously cold and if a soldier's depenedents (wife or child) had to be treated for frostbite, the soldier received an Article 15 and his family was sent home. The wildlife roaming freely, and in close proximity, included a herd of buffalo, moose, reindeer, and bears. The nerve gas buried nearby in the Gerstle River was a daily concern.

Our daughter was born 100 miles away in Fairbanks; it's a military hospital horror story I won't bore you with. But coincidentally, the mom of one of my student's was also born there two days before my daughter,and her mom who lived in Utah, and I, exchanged a letter detailing our experiences. Our letters crossed in the mail and were almost identical. Compassion didn't exisit in that hospital. But that's another story.

No, our lives didn't compare to the hellish horrors that war brings. And I do not believe that war is the answer, but I would like to thank all of those who battled overseas, served during peace time or war time in order to keep our country free. My late step-dad, a Navy man, relived WW11 time and again, and his sons, Jim Jr. a Marine, suffered through the Viet Nam War atrocities; and John served in the Navy. I salute them and thank them.

13 comments:

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BECKY said...

Hi Linda. Great post! I agree wholeheartedly.
And I don't think I knew that you, too, had an Army hospital horror story with the birth of your first child...hhhmmm...!! We gotta talk...or better yet..."Buy the Book"!! :D

Susan said...

Hi Linda....oooooo, your experience in Alaska did not sound appealing at all. How in the world did you ever survive it? And it's not even a third world country! OMG Thank goodness you came through okay. Take care and thanks for the post. Sincerely, Susan

Linda O'Connell said...

Hi Becky,
Yes we could probably swap similar stories. We have something else in common.

Linda O'Connell said...

Susan,
I was young, 20 and foolish. I used to walk in the woods! It was truly an experience. I cried and was homesick at first, but looking back, I miss it and would like to go back and see the changes. I sure learned to make do.

Bookie said...

Might not have been war in normal sense but sounds like a battle to me!

Linda O'Connell said...

Hi Claudia,
Unimaginable, daily battles. But I met my best friend there and have continued the friendship for forty plus years. Thanks for stopping by.

K9friend said...

Military life is not easy, whether for the person serving, or his/her family.

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

irishoma said...

Thanks for posting your memories of military life. It was not an easy time, but it was a memorable one.

Tammy said...

Fascinating. I am itching to hear all those other stories! I still say you should write a memoir. Really.

Lynn said...

I agree, write a memoir. I love your stories.

Linda O'Connell said...

Thanks Tammy and Lynn. I should write a memoir about those days. I've written lots of short stories and essays about it.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Excellent post. Whenever I meet a veteran I like to shake his/her hand and say, "Thank you for your service." It is no small thing our military men and women (and families) endure. They deserve our gratitude daily.