Our tour in Germany came to an end in May of 1967 and the move was not easy. We had to pack up our household goods and ship them off ahead of time so they would get to the states about the same time we did.
Our “household goods” included Heidi and the car (we sold the Fairlane and kept the VW). Heidi was shipped via commercial jet, was met by Butch’s father at the Atlanta airport and safely tucked away in a kennel until we could get home.
Huddy and her family had moved to Heidelberg and she insisted on keeping Dee for one last time, so off we went up the Autobahn to drop Dee off before we moved into quarters above the officer’s club. It was nice being able to go downstairs and have someone else cook meals for you. The club had a live band almost every night so after dinner we partied before hauling off to bed. Butch finalized his Army business and three weeks later, our family was reunited, minus Heidi for the trip home.
We were driven to Ramstein Air Base where we boarded a plane for Ft. Dix, New Jersey and, in a few hours, we were back on U.S. soil and grateful to be there. It was raining and we were tired and cold.
Needless to say the seven hour flight was not easy on a three-year- old or the three-year-old’s mommy, and, to top things off, the car, which should have been waiting for us, was nowhere to be found.
Our plans of striking out down the Interstate and being with our loved ones in a few days were dashed so we checked into quarters on the Army base and prepared to wait and hope the car would arrive the next day.
No such luck. And nobody could tell us when the car would get there.
The quarters at Ft. Dix were barely bearable, to say the least, and we were all miserable.
Butch decided the best thing to do was to send his girls on to Atlanta and wait alone for the car to arrive -— whenever that may be.
Dee and I boarded a Delta flight to Atlanta and were met at the airport by both sets of parents (I think they were dying to see Dee). Butch’s parents were obviously disappointed that he wasn’t there but I explained the situation and my own disappointment that we had to be separated for the family’s reunion.
After a short stop for refreshments and more talk, we went to my mom’s house where we waited another week before Butch finally showed up at the door early one morning, tired and sleepy, but safe. I was overjoyed to see him. He did not have the best driving record and previously had been in two accidents caused by his falling asleep at the wheel. He just pushed himself too hard and needed me there to nag him.
After he got several hours’ sleep, we were off and running to find something we had longed for the past three years — a Krystal hamburger. There happened to be a Krystal restaurant in East Point and I think we ate about 10 each.
After a couple of weeks (I know Mom and Dad were glad to get us out of their hair), we picked Heidi up at the kennel and headed for Fort Lee, Virginia, where Butch was assigned to a short but more advanced course in his basic branch. We were able to obtain officer’s quarters which were fairly nice if not particularly roomy. Again, when all your peers are in the same boat, it seems to make things more bearable.
I kept myself busy sewing — Butch had bought me a very modern Singer sewing machine when we were in Germany and I made most of Dee’s clothes and many of my own. The machine did zigzag stitching, buttonholes and other fancy things and I thought I was really hot stuff. I also did a little tutoring which padded the family coffer a bit. We bought a 25” color TV and were the hit of the neighborhood on football Sundays.
As we always did in a new place, we ventured out to the local attractions and visited Jamestown and Williamsburg, along with the huge Confederate cemetery in Richmond. This, of course was Butch’s cake and ice cream. He was like a big kid.
Time passed, the months went by, and we began to wonder what was in store for us next.
The bad news came in January 1968 — the first of several tours we had been dreading — the overseas, unaccompanied tour. It was usually for a year or so and could be anywhere. One could expect at least two of these — maybe more — during one’s career.
Our fears were confirmed. Since Vietnam was raging, that was where he was sent. Dee, Heidi and I went back to East Point and lived in the Hycourt Apartments on DeLowe Drive. Mom and Dad were also living there so they got to know their granddaughter all over again. But I lived with my throat in my mouth for 13 agonizing months. Only military and policemen’s wives know that feeling.
I got a job teaching kindergarten at Beecher Hills Baptist Church and Dee was old enough to attend so it worked out great. The separation was not so great.
But, once again, the military wives came to the rescue. There was a “Waiting Wives” club at Fort Mac and it was a godsend. We had coffees and teas and even a fashion show (I modeled a bikini, if you can imagine such a thing).
Butch was surviving better than I. After all, this was his career and his life. He chose this and accepted whatever came with it. We wrote almost every day and exchanged tapes. I still have some somewhere but they are probably corroded with age by now. He was doing well and was still alive so I was grateful for that.
The good news was that he was promoted to major — another plus for his career — and he wasn’t even 30 yet! I was proud of my guy even if he enjoyed playing war games — real ones.
He returned home safely (thank God) in the spring of 1969 and we headed for Fort Gordon in the Augusta area, where we would remain for the next three years. Little did we know that it would be the last three years we would have together.
Next time: homeowners for the first time.
Judy Kilgore is the religion editor for The citizen.