Voices of the old year
Published: December 26, 2011
My digital recorder is a repository of conversations with people across the spectrum of military life who have shared their stories, wisdom and experience for my column.
As the old year was drawing to a close, the recorder reached maximum capacity.
Reluctantly, I realized I needed to clear out the old to make room for new stories and a New Year. It was a good time to again hear the voices of those who contributed to Spouse Calls in 2011.
In January, the commander of the American Forces Network in Europe, Col. William Bigelow, explained why the network can’t include commercials in Super Bowl telecasts for the overseas community. We also talked about the yearly program for viewer-created TV commercials for the big game. Incidentally, the “You Do It” program is back again for the 2012 Super Bowl for European viewers.
Throughout the year, as we approached our 10th Sept. 11 anniversary, I spoke with military spouses about the toll of war on the military community. Some of those voices included Jocelyn Green and Sarah Horn, two authors who write about the importance of faith in military life.
In February, Kristin Henderson, Marine wife and reporter, talked about her experiences embedded with Marines in Afghanistan, and the effects of war and deployments.
“Most of our servicemembers are changed when they come home,” she said. “You and I are changed, families are changed … it gets compounded with every deployment.”
War also affects military children. Michelle Sherman, Ph.D., director of the Family Mental Health Program at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Hospital, told me about VA programs to help families cope.
Holly Petraus discussed her job as head of the newly created Office of Servicemember Affairs within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She explained that the financial health and education of military members affects the readiness of American troops.
I had a conversation with Lee Woodruff in March about the traumatic brain injury and recovery of her journalist husband and their subsequent creation of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which raises money and awareness for veterans programs.
I spoke with Debra Hammer, an Army wife in Japan, about life at Camp Zama after the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and their family’s decision not to evacuate.
Also preserved in my recorder was an April conversation with my friend, Marine wife Diana Hartman. Over a couple of hours and several cups of coffee at the PX food court, she shared the story of her journey to the brink of suicide and back, and her wisdom about what it takes to live through and overcome depression.
In May, my friends Nancy, Linny and Debby, all military wives, shared with me the pain of sending a son off to war.
Two conversations on my recorder — both with Air Force spouses — were about the lighter side of military life. Cartoonist Julie Negron introduced her new book of “Jenny the Military Spouse” comic strips. Comedian Bengt Washburn made me laugh all over again with his humorous view of life as a stay-at-home military dad.
“It’s really weird to be the only guy in the room who hasn’t shot an M16 or thrown a live grenade,” he said.
In August, many conversations on my recorder were about special needs families in the military.
In November, my recorder captured Nickayla telling me the story of her husband, Capt. Mark Garner, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, and why she is inspired to continue working in the military community.
At year’s end, I listened again to many and varied military voices. They spoke to me of a life rich in experiences, some painful, some beautiful, all valuable. I hope they spoke to you as well.