Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Being An Air Force Wife... Part 4

Through my blog I get a lot of questions about what it is like being an Air Force wife. I know that my experiences are not typical, and that some other spouses have had a harder time with being married to the military, while others yet, have an easier time.

I have decided to post some parts of emails that I have sent in answer to questions that I get as a way to help others. Plus our story, since I have never put it down on paper.

I know that some people may disagree with my answers, because their experience is different than mine, and that is fine.

I am just saying that this is my experience, my life and the way that I have seen things unfold in the last 14 years of being married into the Air Force.

If your experience is different then you post about it on your blog, please don't slam me for my experiences.

So without further ado here is part four:

I should have probably started with this instead of ending with it, as it is what we have experienced as an Air Force Family.

Here is our story prior to England:

Jerry and I met in 1994, while he was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale Arizona. We were first introduced by my friend Amber, and his friend Terry. Amber was trying to set me up with Terry, as they were on a bowling league together. That didn't work out quite like she planned, as he found it hard that I already had a child. Jerry and I however hit it off. At that time Jerry knew that he was to be reassigned soon, as the Air Force was closing the F-15 side of Luke by the summer of 1995. He also knew that he wanted to stay in the Air Force as long as they would have him.

Jerry and I got engaged Christmas of 1994, and planned to get married January 1996 (the weekend of the Super Bowl in Phoenix no less). I returned to school at ASU West when the new semester started in January 1995 and told my advisor that I was engaged to be married after doing my student teaching the following fall. My advisor, advised me to look into moving the wedding up to the summer and going with Jerry to Florida, as it "would be easier to get a teaching job where you do your student teaching."

Jerry and I discussed this together, and with both of our parents, and moved our wedding date up to July 8th, 1995.

Jerry PCS'd to Eglin in April, with a road trip to Minnesota and Mississippi. I finished planning the wedding.

The first week of July Jerry, his mom Carolyn and his sister Lisa all caravaned to Arizona for our wedding. We were married at 6 p.m. July 8th, 1995, in Avondale Arizona.
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

We stayed in Arizona another week, packing and getting ready for Kelsey and I to move with Jerry to Eglin Air Force Base Florida.

We moved into our new home in Niceville Florida, (a tiny one bedroom, duplex) around the 20th of July.

Two weeks later, the Gulf Coast of Florida was slammed by Hurricane Erin. The base told us to stay home, and that we would be fine. This little desert girl was not a happy camper! ;) Jerry still tells the story of the newsreporters announcing that there was a tornado spotted in our general area, me waking him up, and him walking outside looking around and saying that the tornado was past us, so he went back to bed.

A week or so after that we found out that we were expecting Natalie, our honeymoon baby. Photobucket
I did student teaching pregnant with Natalie, suffering from morning sickness the entire pregnancy.
Which was not helped by the arrival of Hurricane Opal on October 4th 1995. We knew the storm was coming, and about 3 in the morning the shop called Jerry into work to sandbag. About 5 Jerry called and said he was coming home and we had orders to evacuate to his parent's house in Mississippi. At that point Opal was a strong Cat 5 storm just off the coast. I finished packing, and shoving things into our huge walk in closet, so when Jerry got there all we had to do was grab the stuff, and Kelsey, jump in the truck and go. We knew not to try to take the Crestucky 500, as it was the main evacuation route for everyone, and so we went east to go west, and raced the storm. There was times when the rain was going past us as we drove down the highways. We made it to his parent's house in about 8 hours, instead of the usual 5. When we returned to Florida everything was different. People could not get out to the island to see their homes, schools were closed for 2 weeks to clean up the mess. Once schools reopened we had to deal with the traffic that normally went across Okaloosa Island all trying to take the Mid-Bay Bridge, turning our usual 15 minute commute into 2 hours. It was my first experience with a major storm, and I wanted it to be my last!

Natalie was born at Eglin Air Force Base's hospital on April 17th 1996. Natalie was a daddy's baby. If he wasn't home between 4:30 and 5 every night, she cried and nothing would calm her down until she got her daddy. When she was about 2 months old Jerry had a promotion party to go to during/after work. I encouraged him to go, yeah about an hour after his usual time for coming home, I went and tracked them down! ;) I told him that he could stay at the party but we had to come too, because she wanted her daddy.

Shortly after Natalie was born we learned that Jerry would be deployed to Saudi Arabia for his first overseas tour in September. Several of his basic training/tech school buddies were already there, and others were to go before him.

June 25th 1996, a nightmare happened. Khobar Towers was bombed. We had friends there, people that Jerry worked with, people that Jerry went to basic and tech school with. I remember riding in the car home from work with Jerry listening in disbelief to the news reports. The next day I needed the car so I drove Jerry to work, only to be stopped about a mile away from his work. Only necessary personel were allowed passed that point. There were reporters, and base security every where.

Life as we knew it changed for the first time. Base security was stepped up, there was no easy way on base, and most every time we went on base we had to both show our id cards. Going to the 33rd side of Eglin became more secure (the 33rd lost 13 members that day.)
From 2009-05-16 relay for life



About a week before Jerry left for the desert in September he found out that he had a new assignment. We were going to Lakenheath England the next summer if we accepted. If we accepted? What are they crazy? Of course we accepted! The last few days before Jerry left for the desert were busy days. Not only getting ready for him to be gone for 90-120 days, but also making sure our part that needed to be done before Christmas for us to go to England was done.

Jerry left for the desert right around my birthday and returned shortly before his birthday in November. Those were some trying months for me. I was on my own, with the two girls, miles away from family. I had friends and neighbors that I depended on and leaned on, but it was still nervewracking and hard. My mom came out to visit over her fall break which helped.

We were worried about Natalie not knowing Jerry when he came home. She was still so little when he left, and he was going to be gone for up to 5 months. So on the advice of friends I took a couple of pictures of Jerry, both alone, and with the girls, and then I wrapped them in clear contact paper. Every time Natalie would cry just wanting attention and I was trying to cook or clean, I would hand her the pictures (or Kelsey would) and tell her to tell it to daddy. She said her first words (bad dad) while he was gone.

Jerry didn't know exactally when they would be home, it all depended on when their relief showed up and how long it took to get the planes back in the air to come home. Plus of course there was and is OPSEC to consider.

I will never forget him calling me at work the day before he landed back in the Gulf Coast. I asked what he was doing and he said that he was just sitting there.

"Where, at work?"

"Kind of"

"Where are you working at?"

"Guess"

"Here? Like 5 miles away?"

"No, not that close!"

"Stateside?"

"Yup!"

He was in Philly at a hotel near the airport, waiting on a flight to Florida the next day. At that time Okaloosa Regional was fairly small, with limited flights in and out.

I will never forget him getting off the plane and coming through the gate. Kelsey saw him first, then I did. Natalie turned and lunged at him, she knew him at first sight.

With having orders overseas we knew we were off the hook for him going back to the desert for a while.

Getting ready to go overseas to England was a job in itself.

In order for your orders to be processed you have to go through what feels like a million appointments.

We met with 4 or 5 different people at the hospital, and Early childhood specialists, because the hospital and schools on base overseas have to be able to cope with any problems you and your children might have.

We had to get passports, which meant all original birth certificates, marriage license, and court paperwork (for Kelsey since she is not Jerry's biological daughter.)

We had to deal with movers, changing the dates that they are going to show up, showing up a day early, while we were still in bed, and in the process of gathering things to take to the Airmen's attic, and to give to friends. The man that did our walk through told us it would be a one day pack out, and that they wouldn't come the first day that they were assigned to come, even gave it to us in writing, but they showed up anyway. Needless to say, they had to come back the next day.

We had to figure out how to get the Jeep to New Orleans to the port, while we were in Mississippi on leave. Then we also had to figure out how we were going to get back to Eglin to fly out, as they wouldn't allow us to fly out of Jackson. (Thanks to my mom going with Jerry to NO, and Jerry's mom for getting us back to FL.)

We left Florida, flew to Philly, stayed the night there, and then flew directly into RAF Mildenhall on June 20th 1997.
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