Things are looking up for military members and their families assigned to South Korea. U.S. Forces Korea has announced a goal of having half of its 28,500 members serving three-year, command-sponsored tours accompanied by their families.
For decades, most lower-ranking servicemembers assigned to South Korea have been there on one-year, unaccompanied hardship tours. Many spouses of these military members have, at their own expense, ventured to South Korea to be with their husbands or wives. The military classifies these spouses as noncommand-sponsored who were, in the past, denied access to many facilities on post. In 1976, and again in 1980, my wife, Kathy, accompanied me as a noncommand-sponsored spouse to South Korea, where we lived in dilapidated shacks in villages near my post.
We were not allowed to have a motor vehicle and I vividly recall a bitterly cold December day in 1976 when we trekked several miles to the post exchange to Christmas shop. Because Kathy could not enter that facility, I brought potential gifts to the window to show to her. Standing outside, shivering in the frigid weather, she gave either a thumbs up or down for each gift.
My wife, like many other spouses of American servicemembers, didn’t have to leave her loved ones and the comforts of stateside living to live under harsh conditions. But because she did, we both appreciate much more the American way of life we now enjoy.
Today, tens of thousands of military spouses are serving either alongside their loved ones at locations around the world or are back home supporting them. The sacrifices these unsung heroes make are worthy of our utmost gratitude. None of them should ever again be left out in the cold.
Sgt. Maj. George S. Kulas (retired)Fond du Lac, Wis.