FOR THE MILITARY, IT'S A SMALL WORLD
(Originally published in Military Times, 12/30/91
Sometimes we see the U.S. military on a global scale – like a monolith of might, not to be reckoned with. But if you stick around long enough on any give day at any given post or base, you never know who you might run into.
One day when I was working as a volunteer at the thrift shop at England AFB, La, a woman and her little girl came in to consign some items. As I priced her things, we got to talking.
Turns out she’s an Army wife from Fort Polk, La. Within minutes we discovered that we had lived in Alaska at the same time – she at Fort Greeley and I at Eielson AFB.
As we were talking I made a comment that her little girl looked the age of my 4-year-old son. When I inquired about her daughter’s birthday, I was stunned to hear her say Aug. 26.
“Oh, I said, feeling excited. “My son’s is August 21! So she was born in Alaska, right?”
“Yes, at Fort Wainwright. They had to medevac me by helicopter.”
“Oh my God!” I yelled. “My son was born at Wainwright.” (Like Fort Greeley, Eielson doesn’t have an in-patient hospital.)
And then, feeling it was too good to be true, I asked, “Who was your Doctor?”
“Uh – Dr. Garcia.”
“No!” I shouted, barely able to contain myself. “He was my doctor, too!”
We stood there on opposite sides of the counter, thousands of miles away from Alaska and the delivery room, one Air Force wife and one Army wife, jumping up and down like children. I went around the counter and hugged her little girl, wishing for once that my 4-year-old son were by my side instead of at preschool. Heck, the kids were practically brother and sister.
Then, just this past Christmas, I attended a function where I was seated with a table of Air Force wives. Their husbands were in maintenance, and mine a pilot, but I stuck my neck out. Good thing, too. The woman to my immediate left began telling me that she and her husband had just arrived from Holloman AFB, N.M.
“Oh,” I said, getting excited. “I’m from New Mexico.”
What part, she wanted to know, and when I told her Clovis, home of Cannon AFB, she said she and her husband had a good friend who was stationed there years ago. “A chaplain,” she added.
As she was saying this, I began to feel the world shrinking. “This would most definitely be too good to be true. “Oh really, what’s his name?” I asked.
“Sam Nelson,” she stated matter-of-factly.
By then I was literally out of my chair and practically singing soprano to our entire table that Chaplain Nelson had performed my wedding exactly ten years ago in the chapel at Cannon.
I could go on and on listing the encounters I’ve had in the nearly eleven years I’ve been associated with the military, but there are too many.
However, one tops the list:
Shortly after arriving at England AFB, my husband, Tom, was walking into wing headquarters when he ran into a guy who looked very familiar. Tom looked familiar to him, as well.
As they stood there scratching their slightly graying sideburns, they rattled off a checklist of bases, whittling down 18 years of duty stations. Nothing. Pilot school maybe? Nope.
Try ROTC at LSU? Yes! Tom and Mick had been commissioned together at Louisiana State University and now were serving their last tour of duty in the Air Force together.
I’m telling you, it’s a small world after all.
At least in the military.
~ Kathleen M. Rodgers' work has appeared in both national and local publications. Her novel, The Final Salute, won a Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America and has been featured in The Associated Press, USA - Today, Military Times, and many other publications. She is almost finished with her second novel.