It’ll Be Okay

It’ll Be Okay

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

It’ll Be Okay

On the evening of December 17, 1981, Red Brigade terrorists broke into an apartment in Verona, Italy, and kidnapped U.S. Army Brigadier General James L. Dozier. Two weeks later, as my wife, Nita, and I and our two small daughters were traveling to our home in a small village not far from there, a car raced alongside, matched its speed with ours, took a flash photo, and sped away. Although I took a zigzag course home, a second car attempted to follow us into our driveway. I slammed the gate shut and locked it, and after hurrying my wife and two wide-eyed little ones into the house, quickly reported the incident.

Because documents taken from General Dozier’s apartment identified my position as commander of a nearby unit, U.S. military and Italian police decided to take no chances. After sifting through the possibilities, the next morning, the entire family was moved on thirty minutes’ notice.

There might have been a brief catch in Nita’s voice when I called her with the news. If so, it was replaced in an instant with understanding, strength and a closing of “It’ll be okay”—despite having just been told that she had a half-hour to pack for a move of indefinite duration to a place not yet determined. Nita asked the girls to help by choosing the items they wished to take with them. It has since become part of our family legend that Laura, our twelve-year-old, only packed her records. Fortunately, Nita did a last-minute logistics check and suggested that perhaps things like clothes, toothbrushes and shoes might also be useful.

We were taken to a guarded “safe haven” area on a military post. When the news of the incident reached my boss in Germany, he called to ask if I wanted to leave, to be reassigned elsewhere either temporarily or permanently. After I declined his well-meant offer, he asked if he should move my family—perhaps bring them to Germany for a while.

We talked about it that night in the small apartment that was our “safe haven” home. Around a tiny table in the kitchen, with the windows shuttered and barred, and an armed guard outside our door, we held a family conference. I explained the offer that had been presented to us. Nita gave me a “you must be kidding” look, said she and the kids would be staying, and resumed reading her novel. We remained in the “safe haven” for forty-two days, until the carabinieri (the Italian military police) freed General Dozier from his captors.

Many years have passed since that ominous night in Italy. I think about it often in light of the countless numbers of American military families now placed in peril all around the globe. Somehow, I believe that military members forced by circumstances to make one of those phone calls will get responses from their spouses that sound much like Nita’s reply to me all those years ago. The voice on the line will be strong and understanding—and the conversation will close with “It’ll be okay.”

Tom Phillips

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