Happy Anniversary, dear!
Jean was a Denver girl. We met at the USO in Denver in late 1965, when the building was on Tremont Street, a block or so south of 16th Street. The YWCA building it was in was torn down during the 1980's. I was a lowely E-2, going to Air Intelligence training at Lowry, back when it was used for that purpose.
Jean was a "military brat", so she knew what she was getting into - sort of. She certainly knew more than I did! She at least knew about moving, and we did a LOT of that! We left Denver in March, 1966, for Enid, Oklahoma, and the 3575th Pilot Training Wing. We didn't stay there long, just long enough to buy a mobile home, start our family, and for me to get orders for Panama. Our daughter Mitzi was born in Aurora, Colorado, on November 6, 1967, while I was in Panama, 3000 miles away. Luckily the assignment was for only 18 months, and I returned to the US in December, 1968. During those 18 months, I attended three different schools, earned 78 semester-hours, visited too many countries to count, and grew up from a boy to a man. I also met some really SUPER people that I found myself sharing assignments with again and again during my Air Force career.
We lived in Alamogordo, New Mexico, from January, 1969, to August, 1970, while I was assigned to the 49th Tac Fighter Wing. Alamogordo was "interesting" in many new and different ways. We visited White Sands several times (it gets boring after about the fourth visit), the Petroglyphs State Park (which never got boring) more often, the Mescalero Indian Reservation, which is gorgeous, Sunspot, one of the most unusual solar observatories in the United States, Carlsbad Caverns, the Valley of Fires National Monument, Gran Quivera National Monument, a place I dearly love called Dog Creek Canyon, and dozens of other places. We took Jean's sister to Juarez, Mexico, with us on a shopping trip. She bought a sombrero, of course...
I went to Vietnam, and Jean moved to Colorado Springs for the year I was gone. We met in April, 1971, in Hawaii for R&R. My cousin, Bill Lefevre, set everything up for us, and we had an absolutely grand time.
My follow-on assignment from Vietnam was to Germany, and to one of the most unusual units in the Air Force. It's since been disbanded and its mission discontinued, but I'm still not permitted to discuss what we did, or how. It was INTERESTING, all caps, underlined, exclamation marks for about three pages. I met some really super people there, too, and met them again and again as our lives crossed back and forth like a woven tapestry.
Germany itself was a great change from either Panama or Vietnam, and was also new to my wife, whose only other trip outside the US was to the Philippines with her dad in the early 1950's. The "Trip of a Lifetime" that I'm writing about, and which I'll get back to soon, took place halfway through this tour. We also took a couple of bus tours with American Express. Those are interesting in their own way, as much for the experience as for what you see.
We went to Omaha, Nebraska, in 1975, and spent a year there. Jean and I wanted more children, and learned the only way we could do that was by adopting. It was rough for an E-5 to adopt a child in 1975, so we served our year and left the Air Force, heading back to Denver. I wanted to stay in the Reserves, and it took me a year to find a unit I could join. In the meantime, I went looking for civilian employment, and found several jobs that I could do, but which didn't last long for various reasons. We also became therepeutic foster parents for emotionally disturbed children through the Youth Behavior Program in Evergreen, CO. We had a total of six children through the program. We adopted the first one, our son Joe, when he was finally released.
The year 1980 was a disaster for us in many ways, but ended up right when I returned to Active Duty with the Air Force. Part of the disaster was the loss of one of our former foster-children in an automobile accident. That really devastated Jean, and it took her almost a year to recover. At least we were now back in to what for us were familiar surroundings - our second tour of Germany, and our second time to the city of Wiesbaden. No "trip of a lifetime" this time, but we did enjoy going places we hadn't been before, and seeing things that to us were new and different, including a bus tour to England in 1982.
We went to Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina, from Germany. By this time, we knew our son had learning disabilities, and knew he needed special care. The level and intensity of the care he needed wasn't available in South Carolina, so after eight months, the Air Force moved us back to Omaha. We stayed there 18 months, then moved to RAF Alconbury, England, in 1986. In the meantime, I'd made E-7 at Shaw, and developed some new additional skills in my specialty.
England was wonderful! First of all, the only house we could find that would meet our growing needs (we'd added another daughter in 1985) was in Raunds, some 18 miles from Alconbury. It was an old, two-story farmhouse in the middle of 40 acres of pasture on the very edge of town. Secondly, I worked with a great bunch of people, and enjoyed going to work. Thirdly, we were accepted among the villagers in our town, and we managed to do things the ordinary Americans weren't a part of. My wife joined and became a trusted member of the local lacemaking guild. Mitzi and I worked on an archeological dig in our town as volunteers for almost a year. It was an hour by train or bus to London, and several other worthwhile places to visit were much closer. Our longest trip was to Birmingham, to a book fair. Jean even learned to drive on English roads!
Unfortunately for us, the unit I was assigned to in England disbanded after 18 months. We had a choice of going back to the States or going to Germany. We went back to Wiesbaden for the third and last time in July, 1987.
Joe's problems kept getting worse and worse, and forced us to return to the United States in November, 1989. By then, my physical problems were also getting worse. I had major surgery in 1990 for a 2-level cervical fusion. My dad died in December, 1990, and after that, I just wanted to retire. We left the Air Force in March, 1991, with almost 26 years active and reserve time behind us.
We bought a house in Colorado Springs in March, 1990 - the house we still live in. This is the longest that either Jean or I have ever lived in one place in our entire lives, and we have frequent bouts of "longing" to move. In the meantime, our oldest daughter married an airman she met in England, and we have a grand-daughter. Our son is (hopefully) in a place where he can finally be settled, and our youngest daughter is planning to get married this summer. Jean just started her 10th new job since we've moved here. Hopefully this one will be the last, as she's had to quit the last three due to health problems.
I can truthfully say that we're looking forward to an "empty nest" and the time to be alone together as we were that first year! We've shared a lot, we've spent so many hours together, and hope to spend a few dozen more years making memories as wonderful as those from the last 39 years.
Jean and I
497th Recon Tech Group
Dining Out, 1982.
UPDATE: Today's also the wedding anniversary of Captain Ed and the First Mate over at Captain's Quarters Blog. Many happy returns, and a lifetime togehter sharing memories!