Sunday, July 5, 2009

'Way back in 1977, .....................................

I was sent to NAS Memphis for school, immediately after boot camp leave. Initially, I was to attend Air Traffic Control school, but due to too much "fun", didn't hit the books as I should have done. There was talk of transferring me to Motor-T school {for repair of trucks/jeeps/etc.}, but angels smiled on me, and I was offered the opportunity to stay in Memphis, and attend Aviation Electrician {AE} school. I was told, by a Reservist Aviation officer, that I was the first woman in the Marine Corps to attend that school.

Nice thing about AE school, I picked up the theory quickly, so was able to still maintain a rather active social life. In addition to the base Enlisted Club {fondly known as "The Animal Pit"}, there were a LOT of places in Memphis proper - a favorite hangout was Earl's, a little bring-your-own-bottle honkytonk; they had a GREAT house band, The Miller Brothers.

I had been hearing about a "new" Sergeant who was in charge of one of the men's barracks {"Pssst! Did you SEE who Sgt. L******* was with the other night?"}, but didn't 'meet' him until one night at Earl's. He was intimidating - tall {6'2"}, with THE broadest shoulders & tiniest waist & hips I'd ever seen on a man. He had just concluded a tour as a Drill Instructor, so had that deadpan expression down pat, you know the one that makes you want to take ALL responsibility for ALL the woes of the world. One night, though, there was a problem with my ride back to the base {my ride had 'another offer' ;-) }, so Sgt. L. gave me a ride back. To paraphrase Bogie, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship ..................................

We would meet up at Earl's, or see each other around the base. For my 21st birthday, my mother had sent the funds for my senior troop handler, a Gunnery Sergeant, to get a birthday cake for me - Sgt. L. was there, along with some other Marines, to watch me blow out the candles on my {maple-sugar Marine Corps emblem-decorated} cake. There's a picture somewhere out there of me blowing out the candles.

So, school progressed, I graduated, & received my orders - to "The Pit" {MCAS Cherry Point, NC} - Sgt. L. was returning to MCAS{H} New River, NC, at the same time - he offered me a ride to The Pit. Of course, at the time, I couldn't help with the driving, as I didn't drive standard. We arrived @ The Pit, Sgt. L. dropped me off at the temporary women Marines' barracks {the REASON it was called "The Pit", I'm sure}. I had NEVER seen such a depressing living area, until I stayed in the transient women's barracks @ NAS Dallas. Sgt. L. suggested I request New River { I think he wanted to keep an eye on me! ;-) He was the big brother I'd always wanted}; I did, & was approved. So, we ditty-bopped on down to New River, where I was the first woman in my squadron {HMH-362, the Ugly Angels}. We didn't "hang" as much - he was busy with his duties, and I was busy learning all about the electrical systems of CH-53 heliccopters. But, one day, he walked in to my shop - I was sitting on the couch, kibbitzing with my co-workers - I looked up & noticed he had 'rockers' on his sergeant's chevrons - he had been selected & promoted to Staff Sergeant. I jumped up & threw my arms around his neck, I was so HAPPY for him. After he left, my fellow Marines were goggle-eyed, asking me WHO that was - I told'em "my big brother" - I was informed that I should NEVER expect any of my "buds" to ask me out on a serious date, as they were afraid of running afoul of him.

My OJT & training completed, I headed up to HMH-772, at NAS Willow Grove, just outside Philadelphia, and 'life' took over .......................................... I had The Wonderful Progeny {TWP} in early October, 1980 ....................... her sperm donor {13 years older than me} decided he couldn't "take the responsibility", so took a powder a year later. The TWP & I moved to the Reading area to be closer to my parents, for the familial support, I held various jobs {I like to say if a job is legal, I've probably held it, or something close enough to transfer any "skills sets" ;-) }; TWP was accepted in The Milton Hershey School. She graduated in 1999.

In June of '99, I was more contemplative than usual, and longing for friends of my youth; by the end of the month, I had assembled postcards & printed up the message - the REASON I used postcards was that, if he was married or otherwise "involved", I didn't want to create unnecessary problems - I wasn't looking for a lover or husband, I was looking for my friend. I mailed the 19 postcards from Scranton, PA, to every "Michael L*******" who's snailmail address I'd been able to locate via the 'Net, on 1 July. Being the perennially trusting, optimistic Sagittarian that I am, of course I included not only my phone number, but my street address. {Luckily, there were apparently no sociopathic "Michael L*******s" who received the postcards. ;-) }

On 6 July, I received a phone call - as soon as I heard his voice, I knew it was "my" Mike. He was living in the Houston area, just back from a 6 month work assignment in Scotland. He was a bachelor, with his 4 cats & fish. We talked - yes, there were several YEARS we hadn't been in touch, so there was all that to 'catch up' on. We talked every day; one day, when I couldn't reach him, either at home or work - turned out, he was home sick from work, and couldn't hear the telephone.

He invited me down for a visit at the end of July/beginning of August - he paid for my plane ticket, so I hied myself down to Philadelphia & flew on down - as Bayou Renaissance Man's friend, Miss D., can attest, unless one is arriving from a jungle swamp, one is never prepared for arrival in Houston. My flight was early, so I went looking for an outside area to have a smoke. I had him paged, and when he came through the doors, it was a reprise of when he made SSgt. - I ran up & threw my arms around his neck.

We had a GOOD time, that 4 days - initially, he was a little concerned when we ordered adult beverages, since my beverage of choice was Johnny Walker Black Label & water {he figured I would be HIGH maintenance}, but relaxed when he realized that, while I may drink 'expensive', I don't drink a lot ................................. ;-)

I didn't want to leave; but, I had to get back to MY 2 cats & lovebird - the night I returned to Scranton, when I called to let him know I was safely home, he told me he loved me. Ten days later, in our conversation, I was regaling him with the story of my great-grandmother, who came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia to avoid an arranged marriage - he asked me what I thought about marriage; I said it's OK for others, but I didn't figure I would ever get married. He then proposed - after about 20 minutes of my 'duh-duh-duh-ing', I said yes.

So, 10 years {2.5 years for us in Mexico, then 2 years for him in the Czech Republic} later, here we are .....................................

So often as I wait for sleep,
I find myself reciting
The words I said or should have said,
Like scenes that need re-writing.
The smiles I never answered,
Doors perhaps I should have opened
Songs forgotten in the morning.
I relive the roles I've played,
The tears I may have squandered.
The many pipers I have paid
Along the roads I've wandered.
Yet all the time I knew it,
Love was somewhere out there waiting,
Though I may regret a kiss or two.
If I had changed a single day,
What went amiss or went astray
I may have never found my way to you.
I wouldn't change a thing that happened
On my way to you.

--by Alan & Marilyn Bergman



Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like you put at least 4 of our Leadership Traits to good use!


Well Done to both of you!

MSgt H

KG said...

And a romantic, as well!