AC Sanders III

The older son of the author was born while he was “in country”. So he could be assured of seeing his son at least once, this beautiful lady hauled a seven month old boy, with all the paraphernalia that entails, to Hawaii for R&R and a reunion with his ol’ man. Spouses of soldiers are God’s angels and do His work. Truly heroes!

                                                                    Fear of the Unknown

          There is an old adage in the military that combat amounts to periods of intense boredom accentuated by moments of sheer terror. This might be true for the soldier, but there is no relief from fear on the part of loved ones back home. In the mind of a wife, her husband experiences hell twenty-four, seven. The warrior knows what his situation is, the wife assumes the worse. While at a given moment, she might be racked with worry, her soldier might be lounging atop a bunker inhaling a stale cigar and guzzling a can from a ration of Schlitz Beer.

          One young wife packed her baby boy in the car and headed for the grocery store. A couple of blocks down the street the dreaded olive drab colored Chevy sedan rounded the corner motoring in the opposite direction toward her.

She gasped for air, infused with her worse fear. A sudden rush of nausea erupted in her gut. Those vehicles transported an officer and chaplain from Fort Bliss, Texas, to deliver death notifications to wives and families living in the El Paso area.

The wife started to turn back, but couldn’t. As long as she did not know for sure he was dead, in her mind, he was still alive. She drove around the rest of the afternoon refusing to return home to receive the dreaded news. That news never came.

She later learned another waiting wife lived in an apartment complex at the end of the street. The “death squad” had informed that young woman her pilot husband had been shot down and listed as “Missing in Action”. Decades later, his status was changed to “Presumed Dead”.

The cruel irony of that afternoon in 1968 contrasted ultimate relief for the young mother, juxtaposed against the embarkation of a tortured journey lasting many years by a spouse who has never experienced definitive closure.