Although she was never saluted, never received a service ribbon, a promotion, nor honored at a Hail-and-Farewell, she was the reason all these things did happen to my dad. Even after being warned about dating a “Fly Boy,” my mom married my dad but only after she waited a year for him to return from Korea.  She not only married my dad, she sacrificed her dreams for him, our family and his career.

I don’t remember a lot about when my dad left for Viet Nam, but I do remember my mom trying to make life for my brothers and I as normal as possible while he was gone. When he returned, we moved to Germany and that, I remember! I think my mom wanted our life in Germany to be as NOT normal, meaning different than life in the US, as possible. She wanted us to experience all that living in a foreign country could offer. Mom made sure we tried to speak the language, ate local food, attended cultural events and travelled as often as possible.

When we returned to the United States, dad went back to school for a graduate degree and it seemed we moved every summer for a few years. During our elementary school years, mom became our “first teacher.” Not knowing where we were going to school, mom insisted we spent time every summer preparing for the following school year by completing grade-level workbooks. Some of my fondest memories are my mom taking us to the library every Saturday morning with a large stack of books. She would let my brothers and I each choose a few books to check out for the week and the following Saturday we would return those books and check out more.

With all of our PCSs (Permanent Changes of Station), it was mom’s job to supervise the packing and unpacking. She had moving day down to a science. She had her clipboard ready when the moving truck pulled up and had told each of us kids our jobs for the day. I remember our jobs included putting stickers on boxes, labelling contents with a marker, and making sure the movers had water and snacks. When we arrived at our new base, she acted as the traffic cop making sure all the boxes got to the proper room. As an adult, I have moved quite a few times myself, but my moves never went as smoothly as when my mom was in charge.

In addition to orchestrating all the moves, doing all the shopping, cooking all the meals, cleaning the house and overseeing my brothers and my schoolwork, mom was also very involved in the Officers Wives’ Club in all the bases we were stationed. I remember when we were stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, the general’s wife had my mom constantly involved in one project after another. Mom never said “No” when asked to help, especially if the project benefitted children.

Read the rest of this entry »

MOTHER’S DAY ESSAY CONTEST: Her Sacrifices Were As Great As His

My mom met and married my dad in 1954 between the time he joined the army and got out and when he went back in the army in 1955 after I was born (in Orlando, Florida).  Shortly after a brother and sister coming along and moving to three more states Alabama, Texas, and South Dakota, Dad got orders for Munich, Germany.  Before Mom and we kids could move there, though, Dad had to go ahead of us and spend six or seven months there until military housing became available.  During that time period, Dad moved us to a small town called Apopka down near Orlando so that Mom could be near family.  Mom didn’t drive and was more comfortable knowing she had family nearby who she could also rely on for transportation when she needed it.

Anyway, time went by and also the six or seven months and Mom and her three doorsteps (she referred to us when we were little as her three doorsteps) were on a military air transportation plane leaving Philadelphia across the Atlantic Ocean for Munich.  Brother, sister, and I all three started elementary school in Munich.  After Dad’s time was up in Munich, we (the whole family this time) left Bremerhaven, Germany on a military transport ship heading for Brooklyn, New York.  Took nine days!  I was eight years old then, so Mom was 28 (20 years difference in our ages).

From that time on, we moved all over the country and during that time Dad serving in Vietnam twice and Korea again (which incidentally brought Mom and us three kids back to Orlando each time). When he retired in 1973 after spending a year in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, we moved to where I am now…the Mississippi coast.  I was only 17 then, and now looking back, I wonder how so much adventure could be packed into so little time.  My dad made a lot of sacrifices, and my mom was behind him every step of the way.  Her sacrifices were as great as his.  Times were not easy for an enlisted man and his wife trying to stretch a dollar. So, just like all other military families, I suppose I could write a book about my childhood journey. Mom is gone now, so is Dad and also their other two “doorsteps”, but it is comfortable just knowing their legacies will always carry on.

Jay Jay



My Mother, Bettie, was a born performer. She loved word-play, and had a “saying” for almost every issue. Her favorite was “If it is not fun for everyone, it is not fun.”

Family lore has her sitting at her grandfather’s knee as he recited “I had But Fifty Cents.”  Young Bettie soon memorized all 52 lines. As a senior in high school, she was cast as “Aunt Milly” in a three-act comedy.

That same year she competed in a national oratorical contest sponsored by the American Legion. In addition to a 10-12 minute prepared oration, contestants had to field questions and could not use notes. Headlines in the Jeffersonville, Indiana newspaper reported that “Miss Gibson won over the successful contestants in other towns in the county.” An estimated 1,500 people were in the audience.

Fast forward to 1953, Bettie, her career Air Force husband Rex and three kids arrived at Forbes Air Force Base near Topeka, Kansas. Rex was anticipating a promotion to Major rank, and officers’ wives were expected to participate in on-base activities.  As she did with every new venture, Mother brought energy, creativity and her unique sense of humor to the task. She also revived her high school interests in debate and performance when she joined Forbes Femmes Forum, a Toastmasters-like group.

As I was working on this piece, it struck me that my mother’s great granddaughter, Nadia, must have inherited Mother’s memory genes and love of performing.  Eleven-year-old Nadia has been performing on-stage since she was six. She has worked with a travelling troupe from Missoula, Montana, and also acts with a local group, “A Theatre for Children.”

My mother would have had fun reciting poetry with Nadia. Unfortunately, they never met. My parents died two years before Nadia was born.

I could have used some of Mother’s performance genes instead of spending most of my professional career avoiding standing in front of groups. One of Mother’s traits I did inherit is “compulsive clipping.”  When I cleaned out her desk after she died of Alzheimer’s disease, I found little pieces of newspaper clippings and scribbles on bits of paper. I can’t read the Sunday paper without scissors at hand to snip some tidbit I feel I might need some day.

Here are just a few of Mother’s clippings:

“Ice cream doesn’t put on weight right away – it takes a month of sundaes.”

“A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle.”

Exercises that do no good: spinning your wheels, passing the buck, pushing your luck, stretching the truth, running amok.

Have fun with this one:






Mother rhymed our names. My sister’s name was easy, as was mine:  “Jenny Penny” and “Candy Dandy.” My brother Christopher was more of a challenge: He ended up with “Mistopher Christopher”. Soon she was calling our father, Rex, “Rexey-by-hexy”.

Mother even talked in rhyme. For example “We had fun and no harm done.”  And for me, “We both have wonderful husbands; they have wonderful wives. We’ll all be happy for the rest of our lives.”

One of Mother’s favorite poems was Sir Walter Scott’s tragic “Young Lockinvar.” Even when she first started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease, she could still recite most of this poem that had been in her head for over 50 years.

As her Alzheimer’s progressed and she was hospitalized with pneumonia, she started introducing herself as “Bettie Spaghetti” soon followed by “And don’t you forgetti.”

I never will, Mother.

–Candace George Thompson

Caregivers Deserve to be Remembered

by Sue Pearson

As a caregiver and wife, I take care of a 100% disabled veteran husband (Tom) who proudly served our country for 24 years in the Air Force including serving in the Vietnam War who needs assistance with daily tasks, such as showering, administering medication, transportation to medical appointments and planning his day.  I am always thinking, what I need to do for the two of us?  He is a left leg amputee above the knee, caused from many health issues serving in the military. He is now retired.

As a caregiver, I fulfill many different roles: wife, friend, nurse, case manager, chauffeur, etc. so, I pray for God to give me wisdom to know which role to step into for the best care for every situation.

The demands of caring for a spouse can be overwhelming and builds stress with no end in sight.  There are times I have limited time and energy.  There are times my spouse becomes very irritable due to the pain or illnesses he suffers, which causes stress emotionally and physically on his body.

Caregivers need encouragement, inspiration, and faith to care for a loved one. When I feel overwhelmed, I turn to God and read Matthew 11: 28-30.

My spouse requires a lot of medical care.  He has gone through many surgeries, 3rd degree burns, speech, occupational and physical therapy, and even having cancer twice.

I always have to go and engage/fight for him, usually in a physician’s office or hospital, and help him through so many surgeries—and– even dying in December 2009, which God performed a miracle and brought him from being dead to living again.

It is difficult at times to try to keep up with the household chores, medical bills, plumbing issues, appliances breaking down, yardwork, food shopping, being a chauffeur, and sometimes, even burning the meals.

There are days I have no time for myself to relax or dedicate time to read God’s word or prayer time which causes bad or fearful thoughts.  I need to focus on prayers and think  about God’s gifts and promises, instead of our problems, which can be very difficult at times.   I have had to give up fun activities and time with friends and family to take care of my spouse.

As a caregiver for Tom, I find that it does affect me physically and emotionally. Also, as a caregiver, I sacrifice many social relationships and traveling with my spouse. That comes at a cost emotionally and I feel alone at times.

Furthermore, as a caregiver and wife, I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for my spouse.  Still, I never think of myself as a caregiver.  I must trust in God above all else.  I couldn’t do this without God who calls us to care. Sometimes the medical conditions my spouse suffers from breaks my heart.

I must ask God to give me strength daily to care for Tom and rely on God’s power working through me instead of my own efforts.  We must trust God in every situation, which can be difficult at times while caring for one’s spouse.  I must aim to protect his dignity.  I must try to keep him active and engaged in activities which is very difficult due to his poor health.

I believe Tom paid a huge price in service of his country, but he has no regrets about serving his country.  It is an honor to take care of him, since we have been married for 41 years.  Caregivers are forgotten at times and need to be remembered.

An Update from Prof. Dr. Christian Führer, Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg

There will soon be a “Mabel-Grammer-Ring” on  the former Sullivan Barracks. The major thoroughfare through the  installation (soon a new suburb) will be named after the very WII soldier  after whom the barracks had been named in the first place.

After I had started the initiative to name a street after Mabel Grammer,
the City of Mannheim, represented by the municipal archives – asked
me for similarly important German-American personalities, and I
suggested a local blues, swing and jazz icon (Joy Fleming) and Jean
Moore Fasse who ran a Service Club in town for several years.

All three suggestions were approved by the City Council, so Mabel Grammer returns to Mannheim; and this time, for  eternity.
When the municipal archives moved to a new location right
across the Neckar River a while ago, Director Prof Dr Ulrich Nieß had a
great idea: He suggested adorning the scaffolding around the archives’
new home with the eyes of prominent Mannheimers. Among them: Mabel
Grammer. Here’s a report about the art project:

You will easily recognize Mabel Grammer’s eyes, taken from the very
photo I had used in my book. She is joined by German soccer legend Sepp
Herberger, Berta Benz (wife of Carl Benz, the inventor of the automobile
who was the first person to actually drive a car) and others.


Mabel Grammer’s story is documented in the following movie:


Mulling Over Service In Different Contexts

Recently, I sat in on a Bernalillo County Commission meeting in Albuquerque. It was fascinating to learn how the county works, and as speakers addressing different topics stepped forward with presentations and requests, it was refreshing to see people communicating civilly. The public comments were well-controlled and timed; yet people got to say exactly what they wanted to say, and the others listened respectfully.

During the meeting, the Bernalillo County Manager called up six people and explained why they had been chosen as employees of the month. She shared some personal things about each recipient, which really drove home that these employees are real people—not just job titles. The details were small and intimate: One employee likes to build Lego sculptures with his son; another loves Disney; another reads voraciously.

That reminded me of a rewards and recognition committee I once chaired at the VA. We honored employees of the month, too, and also gave out a “Shirt off Your Back” and “Supervisor of the Quarter” award.

Whereas the presentation at the County Commission meeting was brief and formal, our VA’s town hall is very lively. One committee member bakes hundreds of cupcakes for every single one of the town halls. It’s her way of giving back to her fellow employees. She does it on her own time and uses her own resources.

I remember when I decided to become a board member for our homeowner’s association. Years ago, at one of the meetings, there were several angry homeowners venting and raging at the board. Suddenly one of them said, “I should join this board because you guys suck!” At that point, although I had not planned to, I stood up and volunteered to be on the board. I figured I could do a better job than that guy. Whether or not it’s true, I’ll never know, but I did get a healthy respect for what it’s like to serve on a board of directors. (Please be kind to your voluntary homeowner’s association board!)

When I was a young army wife, all of us wives in the regiment were invited to the Commander’s town hall meeting. We knew something significant was going to happen because of the wording on the memo.

Once we assembled, the Commander informed us that our husbands were going to be deploying to the Middle East. Everyone sat quietly, processing the news. Some women wept; others talked with their neighbors. The Commander had a difficult job. He wanted to reassure us, but also wanted to stress that whether we liked it or not, he couldn’t prevent the deployment. His wife walked around reassuring us that we could handle this. Her soft-spoken words and quick smile did more for us than any number of “official” assurances did.

My son, when he was a PFC, attended a mandatory town hall meeting at which a suicide prevention training was presented. Like many of the young people in attendance, he viewed the training as merely something to be endured. Yet, a few days later, he was confronted with a distraught fellow soldier who expressed that he wanted to die. Having not unpacked his rucksack from the town hall, my son used the handouts from that training to work through the situation and to determine the next course of action. And, following his own instincts, he ordered them both a pizza to share.

What all these town halls have in common is an element of “service.” County commissioners, federal and local employees serve the public. Citizens choose to serve voluntarily on boards or committees to make their slice of the world a little better. People check in with each other to make sure they’re doing okay.

It’s obvious that the military members serve, but so do their spouses and kids. They share their service member with Uncle Sam; they lend him or her to the mission, and many of them choose, while waiting for their loved one to come back from wherever the military has sent them, to serve by volunteering—in spouse or chapel support groups, in school programs, or any number of voluntary positions on or off base.

When I look around our own East Mountain community, I’m awed by how many people—despite their very busy lives—volunteer. Our food pantries, service organizations, animal shelters, and schools would not function nearly as well if dedicated volunteers didn’t step in to help.

Our museum also depends on volunteers to serve on the board and to act as docents. To many non-profits, large and small, volunteers—or the lack thereof—can make or break an organization. Volunteers are vital.

So, to all of you wonderful volunteers out there—I thank you for your service!

VA History: 1923–National Homes Open For Women Veterans

Ninety-three years ago today, on September 14, 1923, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (VHA’s origins) approved the first hospital spaces for women veterans.

1924_02_17_National Homes accepting disabled women veterans_NYT

Hospitalization and medical care for women who served as Army or Navy nurses during World War I were first authorized as part of Public Law 65-326 on March 3, 1919, just a few months after the Armistice. It was the third time in history that federal veterans benefits had been extended to women nurses who served with U.S. military forces as contractors or employees during wartime. The first federal benefit—pensions–was authorized in 1892 for women nurses who provided support to the U.S. military during the Civil War. In 1897 Congress approved the right to burial in national cemeteries for the same group. Although the 1919 law gave women nurses the right to medical care, no facilities were prepared to accept them.

The Women’s Overseas Service League, founded in 1921, took up the cause to force changes so that women veterans could use the benefits they were entitled to. Only after the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers approved dedicated space for women veterans did the War Department take further action.  The World War Veterans Act of 1924, as well as several smaller acts afterwards, ensured that accommodations were made to house and provide medical care to women veterans.

At the National Homes, a separate building at the Danville Branch (now VA Illiana HCS) in Danville, Illinois, was authorized for women veterans who required general medical treatment. A floor was reserved for them in the tuberculosis hospital at  the Northwestern Branch (now Clement J. Zablocki VAMC) in Milwaukee.  Catherine G. Witter, a 39 year old Army nurse who served at Camp Zachary Taylor during World War I, was one of the earliest women veterans admitted. She entered the Danville (IL) Branch on December 19, 1923 and died of stomach cancer on July 14, 1924. She is buried in the Home’s cemetery, now known as Danville National Cemetery.

By the time that the National Homes became part of the Veterans Administration in 1930, more hospitals had been constructed and opened, so women veterans weren’t limited to just one or two facilities.

Roughly 21,500 women served as nurses during World War I, with about 10,000 of them serving overseas.


Photo: American nurse in Paris, France, during World War I, Library of Congress

Links to learn more:

Women’s Overseas Service League:

Story: VA Historian



New Mexico Author Looking For Photos of KAFB for new Book

Joseph Page, who has authored several books about military installations, is looking for good-quality photos about Kirtland Air Force Base and, especially photos of its families.  If you’d like to submit your photos to add to the book–due out in late 2017–please email Joseph at

In Honor of the Ironing Board Brigade: THE SERVICE WIFE

Submitted by Marcia S Klaas, original author unknown

What is a service wife?? You might say the service wife is a bigamist, sharing her husband with another demanding entity called “DUTY”. When duty calls, she becomes wife number two. Until she accepts her competition, her life can be miserable.

Above all, she is womanly, although there are times she begins to wonder … Like the time when “HER” serviceman answers the call to duty, and she finds herself mowing the lawn. Then she suspects she is part male.

She usually comes in three sizes: Petite, plump, and more pleasingly plump. Amidst constantly changing settings, she finds it difficult to determine what her true size is.

A service wife is international. She may be an Iowa farm girl, a French mademoiselle, a Japanese doll, or an ex-Army nurse, but when discussing her problems with newly found friends, she speaks the same language and from the same general experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Memories of Mom in Post-War Germany

May 6th, 2016 is Military Spouse Appreciation Day–here’s a memory about an incredible military wife–and mom.

By James Kenderdine.

Postcards from when our family was stationed in Germany, 1947-1950. One of my last memories of Germany was when we were getting ready to leave in 1950, stopping on the Autobahn north of Frankfurt and getting out of the car to look south at what was left of the city. Rolling small hills (made of rubble) covered with grass and brush all the way to the center of the city. I could see the ruins of the cathedral in the center of the city from where I stood. When I stood in the same spot again in 1977, all I could see was the city that had been built since 1950, I could not see any part of the cathedral.

Our years in Germany shaped the lives of everyone in our family in ways that, 65 years later, my sister and I are still coming to understand and appreciate. My guess is that any spouse or brat who did not take the Army’s offer of evacuation during the Berlin Airlift feels that same. My mother said she was not leaving, that, in old army terms, “I can stay the winter, no matter how bad it is.” Watching her learn to shoot and MI carbine was fantastic, and to this day, I can still clearly see the image of her carbine, with a 20 round clip in it, round in the chamber, hanging by its sling next to her and dad’s bed. Read the rest of this entry »