Uncle Sam

It was  October of 1983.  I was 18, and he was 21.  We both worked at a Sears store, he as a plainclothes security guard, and I as a cashier.  Our romance was one of the fastest on record:  we dated for 3 weeks, got engaged, and were married the following May.

We planned our wedding to happen just after Allen graduated from the university, and just before he left for Officer’s Basic Training in the US Army Reserves.  He was going into the full-time army to be a pilot, flying the UH-1 helicopter (nicknamed the “Huey”).

I was willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.  So off to the Army we went!  We moved from California to Alabama, and I cried as we got on the plane to fly away from home and family.  Our oldest son, Steven, was born there.  After Allen’s training was done, he was stationed at Ft. Lewis in Washington (state).  Our daughter, Margo, was born there.  Allen finished his tour of duty in 1988, and we moved back home to California, where the other 4 kids were born.

While our kids were growing up, we talked about our time in the army, and overall it was a good experience.  We had stories about helicopter flight paths being directly over the top of our triple-wide trailer, and we had a brand-new baby;  or the time Allen was in the field on a training exercise and accidentally sat on a hill of red ants; or learning how to safely fall out of the sky in a helicopter (also known as an “auto-rotation”, where the pilots simulate an engine failure, shut the engines down, fall out of the sky for a little while, and then restart the engines).

Our stories were added to those of both of our fathers, who served in the military when we were born.  Allen’s dad was in the US Navy, and mine in the US Marine Corps.  Two of Allen’s brothers served in those branches as well: Don being in the Navy, and Dave in the Marines.

Our oldest son followed in his dad’s footsteps when he joined the Army National Guard.  He spent a year on active duty in Kosovo, which is in the Balkans.  He also married in his dress uniform, to show his pride in being one of the people who serves our country’s defense.  His 7-year commitment to the Guard ends next month, but his stories were added to the pool of family recollections.

I don’t yet have pictures of Phil or Mark in their National Guard uniforms, so I’ll wait to post those; but I do have a quote from Mark, on how he feels about joining the military:

“So as most of you know I’m in the Army Guard and the number one thing I struggle with about it is knowing why I wanted to serve. Obviously I get my collage paid for, but what else, thats not enough to give my life! So, I was thinking and realized how much I took for granted.”

I, too, take for granted the things my country provides, and Mark’s reminder makes me more appreciative of the men and women who serve our country by giving years in their lives to our national safety and defense.  A college tuition is a small price to pay for that service.

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