Hugh’s article starts like this…….”JOHN KERRY now closes his presidential campaign exactly as he opened his political life: Attacking the United States military.” Read it. It’s great!
This has me thinking about our life as a military family.
From the beginning of my adult life I have been a member of a military family. Our life on the move as my husband served in the Army kept us alert, ready to try new things, meet new people and live overseas.
My husband and I were lucky that we started our family during the last days of Carter. Our youngest daughter was born in 1980 during the Presidential campaign. Although my husband and I thought Jimmy Carter was a good man when he was first in office by the time our tour in Germany was up we were totally disillusioned with the man.
Actually, our experience during the Carter tenure while overseas helped us both to grow up spiritually as well as emotionally. I will never forget the feeling of pride when we voted for President Reagan for the first time. Our three year tour in Germany was an anxious time. There were terror attacks on the U. S. military and we were all taught about OP-SEC.
My husband was a Captain in the Army at the time and was dealing with the demoralization of the military under Carter. Troops were undisciplined, and there were drug problems and racial tension. There was a sad lack of leadership from Carter. After Reagan was inaugurated things began to get better and kept getting better.
By the time our children were in upper elementary and junior high school Vice President George H.W. Bush was elected President. We moved to Panama just after Operation Just Cause and lived in a bullet-ridden house that had a board that we put across the door to secure it. I wondered how fearful the time must have been during the last days of Noriega and we soon learned that it had been a terrifying time.
We lived next door to a house that had been used during Noriega’s regime as a “witch house.” Noriega allowed his police to use the house for prostitution, drugs and other unsavory activities.
The U.S. military made the mistake of allowing the “new” Panamanian police force to use the house as a sort of “lounge” and soon it became a meeting place for those who were plotting an overthrow of the government. The Panamanian police would sit outside in the yard and glare at my son as he walked down to Balboa High School in his JrROTC uniform.
One night a good friend who was a commander in the MPs came over very late. He had on a long sleeved overcoat which we thought was strange in that tropical climate. (he had on a bullet proof vest) He quickly explained what was going on.
He told us that the CIA and the new Panamanian government had discovered that a group that was plotting to overthrow the government was based in the house next door to us (the former “witch house”) and that there was going to be a raid in the middle of the night to arrest the people and clean it out.
He urged us to get blankets and pillows and sleep on the floor in one room. So, we scurried about and got ready. Meanwhile, the Lt. Col was using our phone, calling around to the people in the neighborhood to warn them. (we lived in military housing but it was an open neighborhood)
Our youngest daughter was ten at the time and kept following my husband around trying to talk to him. Finally, she got his attention. She told him that she had been on the swing in the backyard that day and had noticed some wires connecting the “witch house” to ours.
She also said that she and her friend had seen one of the men come out of the witch house with a stack of documents in his hands and put them in the barbecue pit. The Lt. Col overheard her and turned pale. He and my husband and some of the other MPs went outside and discovered that our phone was tapped.
So, the raid didn’t go as planned. It was supposed to occur around five A.M. and basically caused us to miss a night’s sleep for nothing. Evidentally, someone had leaked the word of the raid earlier in the day which was the reason for the the barbecue pit burn. And of course our phone was tapped which I thought was a hoot. We rarely used it except for calls to each other to give information about our whereabouts.
My husband and his cohorts had contempt for the CIA but after that botched raid there was very little respect for it at all. My husband was working on the Drug War and had come into contact with people in the state department and the CIA who were basically working against President G.W. Bush every step of the way. I am sure that they fit right into the Clinton administration a few years later.
The “raid” finally came at twelve noon that following day. School was out (one of many Panamanian holidays) and I was walking my youngest daughter down to the orthodontist’ office. Just as we passed by the “witchhouse” military police cars whizzed by us and pulled in front of the house.
The witchhouse was boarded up and empty until the day we left Panama. That was a relief to us all. We still had odd things happen in Panama. Noriega had emptied all the mental hospitals and one night as I was going to get into the car and take my daughter to a school event a Panamanian woman was standing behind the car and refused to move. I even started the car and backed up hoping that she would move but she wouldn’t. We had to call the MPs who then had to call the Panamanian police to deal with her.
We were the only house that wasn’t robbed in our neighborhood thanks to our fiercely loyal cocker spaniel, Pattertwig.
The summer we arrived in Panama Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Everything was in an uproar at Southcom. So many of my husband’s fellow officers were trying their best to get transferred so they could go to war, including my husband. Some were able to go because they were at the end of their tour in Panama but we had just arrived so my husband coudn’t go.
But my brothers did. They served in the 142nd Field Artillery and came home safely.
In June, 1992, when our family PCSd from Panama to Fort Drum, New York Clinton had reared his ugly head. Being a native of Arkansas I was shocked that the American people would be fooled by such a slick used car salesman.
In January, 1993, my husband was deployed to Somalia and we were left in upstate New York with the army-issued snowblower. We had 224 inches of snow that winter. My husband came home safely but some soldiers stationed at Fort Drum did not. We were full of bitterness and disgust at the weak leadership of Clinton.
My son graduated from the Catholic high school in Watertown, New York and left for Beast Barracks at West Point. I actually breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that we would have him out of Clinton’s line of fire for four years at least. I could sense a national state of denial in the country. A state that seemed to see no evil, unless it was in conservatives.
I started to read conservative publications during our tour at Fort Drum and that bolstered my confidence in my own conservative views but the massacre of good soldiers in Somalia and Clinton’s subsequent cut-and-run gave me a very bad feeling.
When my husband was stationed at the Pentagon for his next tour I started to read the Washington Times. I learned more about the state of our nation and still that sense of dread wouldn’t go away. I remember once when my son was home during his yearling year from West Point and we were discussing military issues I told my son that our country was in a historical cycle that always seemed to occur before a great national crisis.
Although the Republicans won the house in 1994 and a man named George W. Bush became the governor of Texas, Clinton sailed to a second term in 1996. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Patriot News in Harrisburg, PA to state my dread of another term of Clinton and they published it. My husband was at the War College in Carlisle and that one year stay was one of the most enjoyable and memorable times of our life as a family.
After Clinton was re-elected in 1996 and the Monica days began I was again horrified when I learned that Clinton actually planned troop movements while being serviced by that sad young woman. No respect for the military was ever displayed during the eight years of Clinton.
After the War College our family moved to Fort Sill. Our oldest daughter was in college in Pennsylvania and our youngest daughter was in her senior year of high school. Our son was in his Cow year at West Point. We lived on the Old Quadrangle in a 130 year old stone house built by the Buffalo Soldiers. We threw great parties and really enjoyed my husband’s Brigade Command.
The military managed to “grin and bear it” during the Clinton administration but everyone was really looking forward to the end of the second four years of Clinton. As we prepared to move to Germany and Clinton managed to hang onto his office I began to notice news coverage of Governor George W. Bush of Texas, who had just won his second term by a landslide.
One night while sleeping in the old stone house I had a dream. It was the kind of dream that awakens you and you don’t forget. I dreamed that George W. Bush was standing in the middle of a boxing ring with a golden aura around him. He had a look of serenity and kindness on his face. He was standing alone so seemed to be the winner. I woke up and immediately thought, “He will be our next President.”
Before I go further I have to state that I am not into dreams or soothsaying or any of that stuff. I am a born-again Christian. I don’t believe in that at all. But I dreamed that dream.
At three A.M. on election night in 2000 in Germany I was fighting to stay awake to read the election results on my computer. When the news networks called Florida for Gore I turned my computer off and went upstairs to bed. I laid down in another bedroom (so I wouldn’t awaken my husband) and I couldn’t stop the tears. My husband had told me that he would retire if Gore won and other officers also felt the same way. As I was drifting off I thought about the dream that I had had earlier in the year. I little thought came to me that it wasn’t over, that Bush would win. So I went to sleep.
Three hours later my husband woke me to tell me that George W. Bush had won. I raced downstairs to watch AFN and actually danced around the house for a while until Gore’s snippy phone call to President Bush taking back his concession.
I have forgotten how many days it took before the election was finally over and the rightful winner proclaimed but it was stressful and upsetting to those of us in Heidelberg.
So now that my husband has retired I find myself thinking about the endurance of those in the military and their families. Our son is a Captain and an engineer currently going through his advanced course. My brothers are still active duty. Once a military family always a military family.
The disgraceful behavior of John F. Kerry throughout this election has brought back all the disgust that I felt when Bill Clinton was President. Neither men have any clue about duty, honor, country. It is all about themselves. The military is still what they loathe the most. Kerry’s attack on President Bush over the missing munitions has demonstrated that he has no clue that when the American Commander in Chief is attacked so is his troops. And so are all of us in the military family.
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