Wow, Sam, happy anniversary to you! Who would have ever thought, twenty years ago, that I would be writing to you on such a momentous occasion? Twenty years ago TODAY, you, me, and Blaine embarked on quite the little adventure, didn’t we? Twenty years of ups and downs (mainly ups, thank goodness) and excitement and challenges and joy and wonder and stress and fulfillment. Sort of our own little patriotic ménage a trois, know what I mean? (Not that LIKE, you people need to get your minds out of the gutter.)
I knew from the moment I said my “for better or worse” bit that you would play a large part in our lives. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would entail, but I was eager (for the most part) and willing. I’m so thankful that it’s been almost all “better”.
Twenty years ago today, you accepted my husband into your fold. A bright-eyed, eager, college graduate, who had known from the time he was 12-years old that he wanted to be an Air Force officer “when he grew up”. I still remember seeing him in his uniforms for the first time ….. feeling so proud, sensing his excitement, nervous about what the future might hold …. Calling him Gomer Pyle behind his back because the uniforms were so unflattering, especially that green one, man, that’s hideous.
You beckoned, and we followed, packing up our possessions (not that there were many of THOSE back then, that’s for sure!) and our lives, leaving our friends and family behind, and driving clear across the country to start our life with you. Thanks to you, right off the bat, we saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, experienced a different culture of sorts, attended a taping of The Price is Right, realized we *could* survive far from home, and discovered that none of the southern California beaches we visited were anything like Baywatch, that’s for sure.
In return, you took this young, willing, enthusiastic young man and began to mold him into the kind of officer you wanted him to be. Introduced him to a world that was foreign to him, one of policies and procedures and security clearances and missile codes, but one where he felt comfortable, and enjoyed learning all the new things you had to teach him. You gave him opportunities for advancement, and additional schooling, both military and traditional. You introduced him to people with the same core values as himself, and allowed him to flourish in an environment so very well-suited to his personality and work ethic. It takes a huge amount of self-discipline to thrive in such a structured environment, and not many people can do it effectively, let alone for twenty years. I’m so proud he was able to meet the challenge head on and succeed.
Throughout the next nineteen and a half years, we made a lot of sacrifices for you. Moving every eighteen months or so (sometimes more, sometimes less) meant leaving many houses, friends, communities, and jobs behind. It also meant we had more opportunity than most to meet new people, make new friends, discover new things, and explore new places. Sam, you took us from the west coast, to the east cost, to fifty miles from the Canadian border. We’ve lived in places with twelve feet of snow and a wind chill of a hundred below zero, and in places where the heat and humidity were so high we thought we were going to melt into little puddles on the sidewalk.
We’ve seen Ohio in the fall, and Georgia in the spring; both absolutely beautiful. We lived in Oklahoma in April of 1995 and experienced the Oklahoma City bombing with our neighbors and friends; we lived in Alabama in the fall of 2001 and experienced 9-11 with no friends or family nearby. We almost moved to Amsterdam for you, and would have too, had a personal family crisis not kept us stateside. We’ve spent months apart from one another for advanced training, but haven’t endured the hardship of war deployment like so many others have.
In return, we’ve been very blessed by your constant presence in our life. A few times throughout the years we’ve been faced, like all servicemen and women, with budget concerns and the uncertainty of military reductions --- fortunately, we escaped unscathed, although many peers did not. 1992 was an especially stressful year for our career group, with many of Blaine’s fellow missile officers being let go. There is no price that can be put on job security. You took care of us during not one, but two extremely grave personal family health emergencies. Without you, I have no doubt we would have had to file bankruptcy --- or at the least, spent years digging ourselves out of financial-medical debt. No, we haven’t gotten rich at your doorstep, but slow and steady wins the race, right?
Even better, for twenty years, you have provided my husband with a career he loves. A calling of which he can be proud, and have the satisfaction that comes from knowing he is serving others. No, he hasn’t been to Iraq; no, he doesn’t fly a jet; no, he hasn’t taken a bullet for the President --- but like he says, there are many ways to serve your country. The fact he has done exactly that, quietly, consistently, and with pride, for the past twenty years, says a lot to me about his character.
Sam, I know a lot of people rant and rave about you, your boss, and all the things they don’t like about you. It’s a fine line our military members have to walk ---- working, fighting, and sometimes dying to defend the rights of the people who denounce the very system that protects them and enables them. I am amazed by the military personnel who can continue in the face of criticism, from those who have no business criticizing. I am buoyed by the support and caring of the many, many, more who thankfully recognize the sacrifices that are made on their behalf.
Mainly, I just can’t believe we’ve been at this gig for twenty years. From butter-bar to Lt. Colonel .... I am so stinking proud of him.
I know it won’t last a whole lot longer. As much as we love you, and would stay another twenty if you would have us, I know you have criterion that we are no longer willing or able to meet. Blaine’s health issues have effectively stalled his career, and while he continues to serve with pride, and serve well, we both know the end is in sight. Our children are getting older and we are no longer willing to pull up stakes and uproot them every few years. It is definitely bittersweet to contemplate the fact we might only have a few anniversaries left with you, Sam.
You have served us well. I hope you can say the same about us.
Best wishes and heartfelt care, on this, our 20th anniversary,
Blaine (AD = Active Duty) and
Kristie (DW = Dependent Wife)