One military spouse's colorful journey...
The first shade was white, 30 years ago today, so pure and innocent. Look at them – not a care in the world and so excited to start their life path together. Little did I know just where that shaded path would lead.
Like all military spouses celebrating a wedding anniversary, it is a dual recognition. We don’t just marry a man or woman; we marry a uniform and all the challenges, joys, sorrows, exasperation and bliss that come with a set of BDUs. Oops, showing my years, but that was my third shade of camouflage.
My spouse had traded in his olive drab for a new style of Army uniform as our path took us to northern Germany in 1983. Lucius D. Clay Kaserne in Garlstedt, home of 2d Armored Division (Fwd), was my introduction to the mysteries of Army life. To that point, my exposure to the military consisted of the Hail and Farewell parties and holiday balls I attended with my intended. I naively thought our life was going to be a social whirlwind in shades of dress blue and sparkles. (I think it is a service-wide conspiracy to lure us in. They want to blind future spouses to the dull camo tones of everyday military living.)
After three unforgettable years, we traded the black, red and gold of Germany for shades of good old Red, White and Blue – bluebonnets that is – at Fort Hood, Texas. This was my first stateside post, with huge training areas, two commissaries, hundreds of Capehart houses and the strip. You can picture it – the pawn shops, tattoo parlors, car dealers and bars lining the road to post. (When visiting years later, kabob eateries and gold grill shops were included.) And we added someone to the family. The life path was becoming even more colorful.
The journey continued, introducing shades of Kansas wheat, and the purple, green and Mardi Gras gold of Louisiana. There, white ruffles and pink rosebuds were added to the family canvas. Nebraska’s Cornhusker red tinted our next move and another little Swan entered the nest. Germany’s black, red and gold came again and saw us add a new shade to the life path. Yellow became the color of this move – with yellow ribbons everywhere as the family rallied through a Bosnia deployment, along with our 1st Infantry Division friends.
Tints of Boston Red Sox, Missouri River brown at Leavenworth, and alligator green highlighted our next military adventures. Yes, we were back at Fort Polk (they should award medals for surviving two tours there), but a different cloud shaded our lives. 9/11 had just occurred and it brought more yellow ribbons, but also a great outpouring of red, white and blue spirit.
My favorite military shade was the Chesapeake blue I saw each day while at Fort Monroe, VA. It contrasted nicely with the new ACU camouflage spouse was sporting. We didn’t get to see much of that shade around home, due to a nearly two year Iraq deployment. During these years, the family also added some new colors to its kaleidoscope - cadet grey, and USMA black and gold.
Living at Fort Myer brought a more somber shade past our front door every day. The black of the Old Guard caisson, carrying its precious cargo draped in our national colors, was a humbling reminder of the sacrifice paid by so many who’ve worn the different shades of uniforms in defense of our country.
Now we’ve traded desert tan for pinstripes, but I think the new ‘shades’ look good on us. In addition to more cadet grey, we’re also donning Indiana University of PA crimson, and showing a special set of colors in a window of our home. As proud military parents, we’ve hung up the red and white with two blue stars military service flag. But all the 30 shades of camouflage wouldn’t be as memorable without my loving family and the wonderful friends who have made the colors of my life path so vivid.
All military spouses can tell their life stories in shades of color and camouflage. The colors could be the steel grey of a carrier or the white of a jet contrail. Some may include the green of hospital walls or a folded blue triangle with white stars. The shades could be the shiny brass of rank insignia that’s pinned on with pride, or the seemingly endless stack of brown (boxes) filling a new set of quarters. Speaking as one whose canvas is almost complete (but who still wants to add many more shades), take comfort in knowing that others share your colors and that they are all part of the masterpiece that is your military life! So…what are your Shades of Camouflage?