Are natural disasters even more natural for military families? Do we — by virtue of our mobility — increase the probability that we and excessive amounts of fire, wind, water or seismic activity will be in the same place at the same time?
Our family has experienced tornadoes and super typhoons, as well as an 8.3 earthquake. We have encountered other military families whose lives have been disrupted by flame, flood, volcanic eruption and hurricanes.
If we are more prone to these experiences, I believe we also thrive on them. This is apparent in a story told by one Air Force spouse. After reading my column about a Thanksgiving typhoon, she wrote to tell her own saga:
We had set out for Guam on Dec 5, 1997, only to be diverted at the last minute to Japan because Typhoon Keith (my husband’s name is Keith also; we should have worried then) was still on the island.
We finally arrived on Dec 7th, excited to see all that this tiny island in the Pacific had to offer. Not ten days later, we experienced our first of many typhoons, this one in the form of Super Typhoon Paka.
The worst kind of storm we had ever lived through up to this point was a 45-minute sandstorm in Arizona. So, fearing the worst, we battened down the house, and our two girls and I waited it out. Keith was called in to work (his equipment was on the flight line and he had to monitor it during the storm) and I was left alone, alone, alone.
Since I didn’t have any reference on what to expect, I decided to keep myself and the girls busy, so we started making a double-layer chocolate cake. (How practical!) It had only been in for about 15 minutes when we lost power around 4 pm. I figured if we didn’t open the oven, it would finish cooking on its own — strange logic for strange circumstances. That night around 6 p.m., we were able to frost our first of many official “Typhoon Cakes” and had dinner under a kerosene lantern. It became a tradition in its own weird way.
The typhoon took power out past New Year’s Day for a total of over a month. Our Christmas dinner was completely grilled that year. I became quickly adept at cooking everything from eggs and bacon, to chicken, on the grill. To say the very least, it created many memories.
Our children still talk about our “Typhoon Christmas” — the car that landed in our backyard, the school outside the back gate that was there before the typhoon and wasn’t after it, the 45-foot root wall of one of the flame trees that had blown over, and the double layer chocolate cake we made when the power went out.
There are so many other stories that could be told about our time on Guam, but the bottom line is this: We enjoyed all five years there and nearly stayed for good at one point. Thank you again for sharing your wonderful experience and allowing me the chance to walk memory lane a bit. It is good to remember that which makes us stronger.
— Cheryl Stark USAG Katterbach, Germany
What’s your take? Do military families have more natural disaster stories than civilians? Does your family have one? Post your ideas and experiences on the Spouse Calls blog: http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terri Barnes is a military spouse and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is stationed at Ramstein AB. Write to her at email@example.com.