Click here to read the entire memoir. This is the last chapter.
Time to Re-enlist?
We had about one year left of his current enlistment. His four years were almost up. He had a year and a half left of reserve duty as well. He had to decide whether to re-enlist or get out and just live out the time left in his reserve status and hope he didn’t get called back into full duty.
We were trying to decide if we wanted to have another baby. We needed to do this before his time ran out, or he had to re-enlist. It was getting close. We required over nine months to have a baby and make sure everything was okay for travel with a newborn. So, we had a few months to try, and then time runs out. Do we re-enlist or not?
At that time, the Iran Hostages were a big issue. Our decision depended on who would become president of the United States and perhaps land us in a war. Neither of us wanted him to be sent overseas during active wartime.
Time passed, and I didn’t get pregnant. The only way to do it, so we had the baby in the military, was re-enlisting. We continued to weigh the issues. They were starting preparations for going overseas to the war zone. The wives were all being issued power of attorney since their husbands were going abroad. No one was exempt. The whole unit was going.
We decided not to re-enlist and quit trying to have another baby. He put in his request to get out in December 1980. His enlistment date was December 26, so we figured that would be his separation date in 1980. Our best friends were also getting out that very same December, but they had a separation date before us. It was quite a surprise when they told us Andy’s separation date would be December 8, 1980. Due to the holidays, the people who were not re-enlisting got earlier separation dates. Now we were getting out before Charlie and Kim were.
We prayed they didn’t rescind his separation date and make him stay and go overseas after all. The closer time came, and they were starting the procedures to send the unit abroad, the more we worried about this happening.
We started packing. Slowly packing things we wouldn’t need daily at first, and then more and more of our belongings. We had to decide whether to move with a U-Haul or have the military pack us up and move us.
One thing we couldn’t get out of was the military inspection of our quarters. We had to pass it, or we weren’t going anywhere. We did a cleaning, but with the threat above our heads about what would happen if we failed that cleaning inspection, we finally decided to hire a cleaning service that would clean and stand that inspection for us. That meant getting out of our housing unit early. We had to stay with someone or at a motel for a couple of days. They would clean, and per the contract, they would stand the inspection.
We decided to go with the U-Haul option. He would drive the U-Haul, and he would have the two dogs. I would drive our car with the children and our cat, who needed a cat box available.
We made arrangements with one of our neighbors on the court to spend a night or two there until we could leave on our separation date. They took us, our children, and our pets in, thankfully. A motel would have been more difficult.
We packed the last of the boxes in the U-Haul and moved down the street for the night. The next morning, we went to leave. Our neighbors had gathered around to say goodbye, and we started to load the vehicles with children and animals. The cat escaped us and took off. We looked for him everywhere. By now, I was in tears. We had to go, and the cat was nowhere in sight.
My next-door neighbor promised to keep an eye out for him, and if she found him, she would keep him. It was all I could expect. It was better than nothing.
Still crying, I got the kids buckled into the car. Andy got the dogs in the truck, and he proceeded to leave the court, which led to the highway. I was following him. We had to go out to the road and then turn right to the turnaround to get to the other side.
We drove down the highway. We turned around and headed back when my neighbor Caroline came running across the highway to the median. She had the cat in her hands. We stopped on the road, and I got out and got my cat, thanking her profusely.
Now we could go. We had about a 10-hour trip, not counting stopping for food and bathroom breaks. Andy didn’t have a radio, so he was traveling with just the dogs for company. I had the radio on, and just before we got home, they announced John Lennon’s death on December 8, 1980. I started to cry, and when we stopped for a bathroom break, I got out crying. Andy asked me what was wrong, and I told him. He wasn’t as upset about it as I was, of course. I was the Beatles fan, not him. Plus, I was the emotional one. Things like that didn’t bother him.
We got back into the vehicles and finished the last leg of our trip, and eventually arrived at his mother’s house. We had made arrangements with another friend in New Jersey to store our belongings until we could find our own home. We could stay with his mother, but our belongings couldn’t. She didn’t have the room to store them, although there was a lot less than we would have had if we didn’t use some of the furniture supplied by the base. The truck had to be emptied at his friend’s house and then returned to UHaul.
We were now civilians again. Our lives were about to change. Military and civilian life was different.