‘Fly Safe’ will resonate with military families
As the world marks the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 and the end of the war in Afghanistan, Vicki Cody’s new book, “Fly Safe: Letters from the Gulf War and Reflections from Back Home,” is timely — a reminder that the service of military families doesn’t end when one war is over. Cody’s experience of wars in the past bears resemblance and relevance to the present.
Families of military members deployed today will recognize the same emotions Cody felt decades ago, first as the spouse of a soldier and later as a mother. Both her sons became Army helicopter pilots and followed their father’s boot prints into combat. At one time, all three were on active duty. The words that became the title of her book were also the words she used to end every letter to her soldiers, “Fly Safe.”
Told through letters and journal entries, Cody’s narrative begins just before her husband’s deployment in 1991 and ends with her sons’ letters from deployments in 2003. Technology has changed, but the stark fears and home-front victories Cody reveals still resonate.
Some of Cody’s recollections may seem quaint through the lens of 2021. In the early nineties, deployment created pay issues for some troops who were still being paid in cash — yes, paper money and coins. Personal email was uncommon, and phone calls from deployment locations were rare before worldwide cell connectivity. Writing letters was the best and often the only way to stay in touch. Families checked actual mailboxes for the latest news from their loved ones or depended on news from the unit by phone or in person.
But these contrasts are only technology deep, while the personal and practical struggles of deployment are foundational. Military spouses manage the home front and their own work responsibilities, lean on their friends, quell fears stoked by the rumor mill, and reassure their kids through it all. When deployment is over, they regroup and do their best to put life and the family back together again. It’s never as easy as they make it look.
Cody’s book is a reassuring reminder of the important contributions of military spouses, even in the mundane but essential task of caring for their families and for each other. At a time when military families may wonder whether any of their sacrifices make a difference, this book reminds us that they do. In war and in peace time, they always will.
Terri Barnes is a military spouse, book editor, and the author of “Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life,” based on her long-running column in Stars and Stripes. You can contact her at www.terribarnesauthor.com.