In 1951, my grandmother went on a blind date. Six weeks later, they got married. He was a Corporal in the US Army and she was a girl from Philly. Soon, they moved to Ft. Eustis Virginia and then to Ft. Belvoir. Over the next thirty years, they bounced between Ft. Belvoir and Idaho and Alaska. My grandfather, who we called Pop, was in nuclear power (after a brief stint as a cook because they had one day on/two day off schedules) was deployed to Korea during the Korean War, but that was over when my grandparents met. He didn’t deploy while they were married, and the longest they were apart was when he went to Camp Century, Greenland for a six month stint in the city under the ice.
My grandpa was in the Army for thirty years, and eventually made it all the way to Sergeant Major – with only a few discipline issues (there’s a rumor from when he was in Korea that one of his soldiers was causing problems in town and Pop took a vehicle to get him. However, instead of driving the soldier back to base, Pop made him run in front. Apparently, that’ll cause you to lose a rank.). At one point, Gram was the head spouse of the NCO Wives club, but mostly she focused on raising her three children.
When I met my now husband, my grandma was one of the first people I realized I could turn to. She had done the military spouse game, done it well, and for a long time. She answered all the questions I had that I wasn’t prepared to have. She was also the first person to tell me to make sure my trash cans were empty when the movers came or they would pack my trash. (I only forgot one trash can, but she was totally right.) I was very anxious about what was going to happen being married to a career military man, but my grandma calmed me down. I still call her to ask her questions.
My grandfather passed away in 1992 after 41 years of marriage. I was nine years old. My grandma is still a good Army wife – she never leaves the house without being totally put together, she always has drinks and snacks ready in case people drop by, and has her pearls and Chanel No. 5 ready at all times.
At my wedding shower, my grandma gave me a Christmas ornament of two cardinals. I was confused, but she said that when I was about five, I begged my mom to let me buy the ornament for her and Pop. They loved it, and had kept it through several moves. Now she was giving it to me, for my Christmas tree with my new family. Every Christmas when I unwrap that ornament, and hang it on our tree, it gives me hope that my marriage and my ‘career’ as a military spouse will be just as long and happy as hers.