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    Posted March 18, 2014 by
    Morgantown, West Virginia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to families

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    What a Ride

    I met and married my Soldier in 1994. He had joined the US Army in 1991 and had completed a tour in Germany before we met. He got out for a year or so and did some time in the Reserves. My Soldier went back to Active Duty in 1995. Our first duty station together was at Fort Irwin, CA the National Training Center which we affectionately referred to as “the armpit of the universe or the dust bowl.” We lived in the middle of the Mojave Desert on a base that was 25 miles from civilization. Our first daughter, Paige, was born there and so the journey began. I had my first experience with Army Family programs at Fort Irwin. At the time we were not a nation at war. It was made clear “if the Army wanted you to have a spouse we would have issued you one.” We were treated as excess baggage and were advised to be low key so our Soldier could get promoted. The Family groups held bake sales in the motor pool so we could spend part of the work day with our Soldiers. We raised funds to have picnics, battalion parties, and to show Command we were not the trouble making spouses.
    Our first permanent change of station (PCS) move was in 1998. He got orders to move to Fort Benning, GA. He was assigned to a tank unit on Kelly Hill. Our household goods had not even caught up with us and he was put on mobilization orders. He was headed to Kuwait for a six month rotation. Thankfully we were still not a nation at war. It was sink or swim time for this fairly green Army Wife. I was put to the test. When we first arrived at Fort Benning there were no quarters available for us and we were put on a list. The call to move came when he was in Kuwait. It was still a time in the Army when spouses had no power. I went in to sign for our house only to be turned away. I needed my Soldier there to sign for housing.( I was armed with my Power of Attorney but I was turned away because the base housing office did not accept them.) I tried to explain he was in Kuwait and they told me to send him the form to sign. They just didn’t get it; my Soldier was living in a tent city. He did not have regular mail or internet access; he didn’t even have running water! Thankfully, I was able to get someone in the units rear detachment (those who did not deploy) to help me. A few weeks later the movers showed up and moved us into base housing. My Soldier returned from that deployment and was sent on several more training missions over the next 18 months. I was pregnant with our second daughter, Sadie, when he received our next set of PCS orders. We were headed to Pennsylvania on recruiting duty. Our daughter was born at Fort Benning five weeks before we moved.
    In June of 2000 we arrived in Clarion, PA for recruiting duty. We were 20 miles from my Soldier’s hometown and parents. We rented a home that had been his grandmother’s and was now owned by his aunt and uncle who lived next door. It was an adjustment to be an Active Duty Army Family far from a base. I had to remember to say grocery store not commissary and I no longer has to write my Soldier’s unit and social security number on checks. It was nice living near family and having my Soldier home more often. Then 9/11 happened. The world was forever changed by that day. My Soldier’s job as a recruiter went from recruiting people who needed a way to pay for college to recruiting people who were willing to fight and perhaps die for their country We stayed in that area until 2007 when he brought home PCS orders for Fort Knox, KY. It was a tough move. We were living close to our families and the only school our oldest had attended. But home is where the Army sends you so we waited for the moving trucks to arrive.
    Fort Knox was a nice base. My Soldier had a position in Recruiting Command Headquarters. I took a position with Army Family programs. Our girls were in second and seventh grades. Our stay at Fort Knox was short. We didn’t even stay 18 months. During this short stay my husband deployed and he came back forever changed. We received orders for Schofield Barracks Hawaii.
    We arrived in Hawaii in the spring. My Soldier was assigned to the Special Operations Recruiting Brigade. His job would take him many places. I continued my work with Army Family Programs. I was working for the Warrior Transition Battalion. Paige graduated from the 8th grade in Hawaii. The ceremony was amazing. We had fire dancers, hula, ukulele music, and flower lei’s for all. Our youngest took hula and ukulele lessons at school and learned many traditional Hawaiian songs. It was paradise but we had Island fever. Two years and two months after we arrived we were headed to Fort Stewart, GA. This would be our final stop.
    At Fort Stewart my Soldier was with the same unit as he had been with in Hawaii. I continued to work for the Army as a Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Officer (PEBLO). I assisted Soldiers who were being medically retired from the Army transition to Veteran status. Our oldest graduated high school and our youngest developed her love for dirt track racing. On many evenings my Soldier and I would take an evening walk. One evening he said he was ready to retire. Although I was nervous about what the future held I knew in my heart he was right. It was time for us to plan for the next phase of our lives.
    In order to prepare for retirement we attended all of the mandatory retirement classes, briefings, and planned for our future. The army has a good plan but the translation to the civilian world is not as seamless as we had hoped. He has only been retired a short time things are starting to come together. For now, we are in West Virginia. I was able to continue on with the federal government by taking a job with the CDC. I miss working for the Army and helping Soldiers and their Families. We are looking to move back to PA to be closer to our families and oldest daughter who is a freshman at Pitt. Our youngest is going to make her début in dirt track racing this spring. The Army provided us with many great opportunities and challenges all of which made us a strong family unit. We had to give up a lot of time with our families and say “good bye” too many times but it was all worth it. Thanks for the ride.
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