Destination: Military Wife

Destination: Military Wife

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Destination: Military Wife

I married the first man I ever kissed. When I tell my children that, they just about throw up.

Barbara Bush

When I was in college, my roommate found an address in a magazine where you could send your name and receive the names and addresses of single soldiers who were looking for pen pals. Amy sent in her name, and it wasn’t long before her mailbox was crammed with letters from soldiers all over the world. She did her best to reply to each letter she received. One of the soldiers, J. D., was from Rhode Island, just a few miles from where we went to school. He was coming home on leave and wanted to meet her. Amy was nervous, but they hit it off. So well, in fact, that after that weekend, she stopped corresponding with all the other soldiers and focused only on writing to J. D.

A few months after they met, J. D. was deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Desert Storm. They continued being pen pals for the nine months he was gone. Through their many letters, Amy and J. D. bonded, and their relationship bloomed and deeepened.

The summer J. D. returned home from the Gulf War, Amy and I took a road trip to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to see him. I was not interested in meeting a soldier, though Amy and J. D. had other plans: they had arranged to set me up with his roommate. Knowing I would protest, they kept it a secret from me until the day before we arrived. That’s when J. D.’s roommate had to return home for a death in the family, completely foiling their secret plan. J. D. wanted to find someone else to fill in at the last minute. He told Amy about another squad leader in his platoon, Mitch. Mitch was from Tennessee and wore cowboy boots and liked to sing country music.

Amy leaked this information to me on our way to Fort Bragg. I was understandably upset. First of all, I was embarrassed that they felt they had to fix me up on a blind date. I realized they were doing it so I wouldn’t be the third wheel, but it still offended me. Second of all, I am 100 percent Yankee, born in Boston, and I had lived in New England my entire life up until that point. The thought of a “redneck” from Tennessee was not only unappealing, but honestly, quite horrifying. How would I ever relate to a guy who wore cowboy boots and listened to country music? Irritated with my friend despite her good intentions, I told her they could tell Mitch from Tennessee that I weighed five hundred pounds and had unsightly facial hair. They got the point and stopped their scheming.

Amy continued to tease me about “Mitch from Tennessee” for the rest of the drive, and it became a joke to us. When we arrived in Fayetteville, my intentions were to collapse in the hotel room for the remainder of the weekend, only leaving to use the pool. When J. D. showed up at the room twenty minutes after we arrived, they talked me into taking a ride to Fort Bragg for a “quick tour.” The last thing I wanted to do was go for a ride, but Amy’s eyes pleaded with me to go.

We saw the sign that welcomed us to Fort Bragg, and our surroundings were immediately transformed. I had never been on an army post before. There were soldiers everywhere. It was intimidating, exciting and interesting. When J. D. pulled into a parking lot and motioned for us to follow him into a building, I glared at Amy. I was haggard and harried from our long journey. “I’m not going anywhere,” was what I tried to say. But I knew Amy needed my moral support.

The building we followed J. D. into was the barracks where he lived. As we got close to the door, a guy in army PTs ran past us. When he saw me, he stopped. He was cute and polite and had blood dripping down his forehead from what I later found out was a racquetball accident. He reached his hand out to welcome me to Fort Bragg. “Hi, I’m Mitch,” is what he said.

I looked at Amy, and we couldn’t contain our laughter. I suddenly wished I had taken a moment to freshen up before we left the hotel room, put on lipstick or at least comb my hair. I knew how bad I looked. Mitch left us to go upstairs, but, a few moments later, he was back, freshly showered and dressed, and following us to J. D.’s truck.

“So where do you want to go eat?” he asked.

I wish I could say we hit it off that night. But, in truth, we did not. I thought he was very attractive and had a great sense of humor. But Mitch was six years older than I, and I found him to be arrogant and overly assertive. Still, we had a fun evening.

When I returned to Rhode Island, I could not stop thinking about him. We started writing, and, after a few more visits to Fort Bragg, our relationship flourished. I graduated from college in May 1993, and I married Mitch from Tennessee in June. We even beat Amy and J. D. to the altar. They said their vows in September of the same year.

As I write this, the year is 2003, and Mitch and I have been happily married for ten years. I know it wasn’t luck that led me on that fateful trip to Fort Bragg twelve years ago. It was destiny. We have two beautiful daughters, and Mitch is now a captain with a promising military career ahead of him. He is deployed to the Middle East once again, but this time as a husband and father, rather than a single soldier.

Over the years, I have met many military wives with stories like mine. Nowhere will you find a more diverse group of people than on an army post. We have created a true melting pot in our neighborhoods. I have neighbors from across the globe—from places like Honduras, Korea, Africa, Germany, Vietnam and Croatia. I know wives who met their husbands in bus stations, in airports, in the town squares of foreign countries. There are language barriers, but no barriers stand between our love for our husbands, or the unique friendships we have formed with one another. In the past ten years, a new world has opened up to me. I have been shown that the only race is the human race. I have experienced suffering, and, as a result, I have seen the true strength of the human spirit and the power of support and friendship. There are thousands of military wives, and each one of us has a story to tell about how we got here.

The next time you meet a military wife, take a minute to ask her, “So how did you meet your husband?” It might renew your faith that God has a plan for us all.

Bethany Watkins

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