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Military Traditions

January 12, 2021 By R.A. Jones

Active Duty — A Life

“Why would you, with a solid university background and a comfortable life ahead, choose a procession of dreary Army posts and an inbox filled with mindless orders?” People still ask me that. I answer, “Because I only get one life. Better to live it to the hilt. I don’t want to waste it at a computer generating even more profit for a faceless top floor. I’m bound for the Great Game country. As for the mindless orders — mindless by whose standards?”

Life in an Army community has its plusses. Start with being assigned to a new post. When you and your family drive through the M.P. station at your new post, everybody, including the dog, feels at home. The rules and customs are the same as the post you just left. You’ll find a PX, commissary, hospital, schools, chapel, gym, wives’ club, swimming pools, and, in the Old Army, you’d have found an officers’ club (now gone, RIP).

Probably you won’t happen to know anyone in the neighboring houses right away. But there’s a huge chance that someone in your immediate area knows mutual friends from a previous assignment somewhere. The beer flows, war stories begin, laughter rules, and, in short order, you belong.

You make friends through your kids, too. The usual school-age pecking order is the post kids vs. the townies. Our four made pals on post like Army kids always do. One day I came home early and found the kitchen filled with laughing boys finishing off the chocolate milk. They were post kids and our own newly inherited home team. So, I charged the chocolate milk off to morale building and they reminded me to get a new shirt in the proper colors. We resumed attending Pop Warner games and the station wagon got muddy from hauling players back from goal line stands. Our guys usually won, and we bought everybody pizza.

Army life would fail without a loving, loyal, and invincibly capable Army wife. Helga made our new quarters as cheery as the old place had been. When I was away, she raised the boys by herself and sustained morale (theirs and her own). She took care of the house and garden and, when day was done, she wrote letters and said her prayers. For two Vietnam years her deepest dread was an unexpected knock on the door by a somber chaplain come to tell her she had become a young widow. How could a wife live a life like that? Many service wives did. God bless them all.

For us, Army home life became progressively better. From an old WWII four-plex on a sundrenched Georgia field we advanced through four years in the Alps and a grand finale of another four more at the Presidio of San Francisco. Now, among our happiest of memories, are many a sundown sipping wine and viewing the Golden Gate Bridge through our huge picture window.

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