Christmas in the Caribbean is the exact flavor of surreal that defines a military childhood, in my opinion.
You’ve got palm trees strung up with lights, you’ve got fake pine trees laid out on lawns or propped up in living rooms, you’ve got songs about snow and frost ringing out on sweltering 90-degree days – Santa wears shorts in Puerto Rico.
The military base even offset its general austerity, Christmas decorations breaking up the monotony of uniform neighborhoods. I feel like the soldiers enjoyed playing Santa, up until the point where they had to put on a coat to complete the part.
I remember steering a boat along the marina on a cooler tropical evening alongside a local Santa, who was kind enough to let me control the helm as we coasted on the waves. I couldn’t have been older than seven or eight.
I never felt like Christmas was “proper” when I was a kid – I was annoyed at the contradictions to what the Christmas of my movies and television shows portrayed to what I saw outside, endless sunny days instead of snowy ones. I longed for that which I did not have, that “normal” Christmas cheer, with all the trimmings to go with it.
Now, of course, with hindsight, I have more affection for those tropical holidays, where still we tucked presents under a great big tree, decorated with ornaments from Germany, France, America – and some local crafts too, joining that map of a lifetime hung every year on our military family Christmas tree.
It’s quite a life, a sort of hazy dream at the best of times – a childhood of ever-shifting scenes, a panorama of Christmasses in lands and climates radically different from one another. I would eventually get my snowy Christmasses, my icy winters, and there’s a strong possibility that in the future, as my travels continue, I may yet again enjoy that surreal sort of Christmas, on a tropical island far, far away.
Circe Olson Woessner
Recently on Facebook, a friend mentioned the difficulties of talking about her military childhood because people think she’s bragging when she speaks about having lived overseas. She admits, “I rarely bring it up any more.”
As the Director of the Museum of the American Military Family, I tell people that in order to understand history, one needs to see it from all perspectives. Military families have often been present during historic events, but much of the time, their experiences are not widely shared.
My husband was overseas conducting multinational exercises on September 11, 2001. I was driving to work listening to the radio when the news of the attacks came over the airways. I remember initially thinking it was a remake of that old radio show, “War of the Worlds.” As it sunk in that it was real, I realized I’d better pick up my kids from their off-base schools, as the base we lived on would go on lock-down. Our lives were about to change. Read the rest of this entry »
Attention New Mexicans, who are serving in the military, are military veterans, are members of a military family, and would like to write about your experience in that capacity…
Paul Zolbrod, Writer-in-Residence for the Albuquerque-based Museum of the American Military Family is seeking stories for its anthology “From the Front Line to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War.”
This anthology will include first-hand stories from all perspectives—service members, family members and friends who share their perspectives and experiences. Submissions can be about the recent Middle East campaigns, Vietnam, the Korean War era or World War II—and everything in between. All branches and ranks of the military should be represented.
How you can contribute:
Your story can be as long or as short as you choose. Just make it heartfelt, honest and interesting. We are looking for stories of trial and triumph and loss, stories that demonstrate the warmth and humor of military family life along with its inevitable tensions, offbeat stories that illustrate the variety that accompanies military life in war times–in other words– anything you want to tell of.
You don’t have to consider yourself an accomplished writer to participate. We will provide editorial services to sharpen your contribution.
The book will be arranged by stories of:
- Legacy & Aftermath
For more information or to submit a story, please e-mail Writer-in-Residence Paul Zolbrod at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2016. Tentative publication date is scheduled for the fall. All stories become part of the Museum of the American Military Family Special Collection Library.
Born in a Hawaiian paradise,
I expected it,
and carried it with me
on large ocean ships
that rolled and delved and climbed
but always went forward
through, and over,
dependent on the Captain
lulled by the vibration
from the ship’s motor
curious about the surface
we sailed upon,
I tasted the ocean,
let me taste
in mountainous swells,
teasing and then pulling back,
then flinging itself in the air
with such joy.
Fish would sometimes follow,
flying over the bow and swimming along side.
Sometimes I would drop an orange
to mark my spot,
but always we moved beyond,
leaving a wake of churned water
and cream bubbles
as we sailed toward our next port of call.
by Misty Corrales
When my father was stationed at RAF Greenham Common in England, we were fortunate to be able to attend the International Air Tattoo (IAT) several times. Two of the years we were there, the IAT was hosted at RAF Greenham Common. Our last year there, it was hosted at RAF Fairfield (and there is a story behind that). This was a great opportunity for the squadrons to raise money, and rather than outsourcing the food to different vendors, the base allowed the squadrons to provide the dining options. My dad’s squadron usually did hamburgers. The way this worked was that a morning crew would come in and start grilling the burgers, so that by lunch time, they were ready to start service.
My dad signed up for the early crew so that we’d have the rest of the day to enjoy the air show. Mom and I also were there to help. What my father’s squadron did not count on was me. I figured that we were there and we were supposed to be selling. But how DO you sell hamburgers at 9 in the morning? It’s simple really. This was a time when the base was opened up to the public. There were several British people on base, as well as a few people from other countries as well. This was 1983. They were not *quite* as familiar with our food then as they are now. I came up with a jingle to sell Breakfast Burgers. We were the ONLY unit offering a breakfast option! And people were hungry. We sold out. When the lunch shift came on, they were surprised to find that there were no burgers ready for service.