Sgt & Mrs Allan Keller, Nov 9, 1948, Trieste. Italy. Their friends, best man and maid of honor, were married shortly thereafter. She borrowed and wore my mother’s wedding gown. Sgt & Mrs Woitte and my parents remained life-long friends. Both women are native Germans.
Photo: Irene Keller Phillips
Donna Smith Baker
I come to this page, and other BRAT Facebook pages, because I feel an emptiness in my life that I can’t discuss with my non-BRAT friends and family. They don’t understand. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not unhappy in my life, just sentimental and I yearn for those wonderful days of growing up in the military.
The people I met were diverse. They were of all colors, religious backgrounds, and came from many regions of the world.
The experiences I had were unique and it took getting away from it to realize it. I thought everyone went to Italy or Berlin with their Girl Scout Troop……or went skiing during Christmas vacation on the Zugspitz mountain in Garmisch, Germany!
My school teachers, family friends, and school bus drivers (the German ones) told stories of Nazi occupied Germany.
I saw The Bee Gees on the European tour in Stuttgart, Germany in 1967. Jimi Hendrix was also touring in Europe then. Two years before Woodstock.
I visited my grandparents in Rota, Spain where they were stationed while working civil service for the Navy. The sights in Spain under Franco were life changing for me. Children begging for food and many without clothing. At the same time, the beauty of the Mediterranean and Rock of Gibraltar were also impressive.
Didn’t know that visiting Berlin before the wall came down was not the norm.
I know many of you have similar experiences and memories……and that’s why I come here. Because you all get it! I miss it.
Here I sit, reflecting on the person I married, and vowed to love and protect the rest of life. Many of his “battles” have been unknown to me. Simply because, he felt I wouldn’t understand, or that he had to protect me. This I understand, because I would rather be in pain, rather than watch him suffer. I also can’t understand, as I was never in battle.
However, this battle he struggles with is never alone. It affects our family greatly. It hurts when everything and everything makes him angry. It hurts, when he wallows on the couch, while the kids try to get his attention. “Daddy, come play with us!” How do I explain to them that Daddy just needs some time? How do I explain that Daddy still loves you, when he wants nothing to do with them? It hurts. So I try to shelter them, take them…
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Growing up I felt like we were rich, dad was an E-8 when I was born. We always had a place to live. Always had food, albeit great meals at the beginning of the month and the days before payday slim pickings. Sports were always available. The Teen Clubs. The Boy Scouts with all of our equipment marked with ‘US’ and not ‘BSA’.
At Ft Bliss our scout master was a LTC and we went to his BN Supply Room to sign for our equipment. There was always a swimming pool or two on Post. While in the Babe Ruth Baseball League I was so slow with my Converse High Tops I asked my mom if I could get Baseball Cleats. She said that we couldn’t afford them. The day after payday there was a box on my bed containing cleats.
When my dad retired after 30 years, after we returned to the states, as a CSM he came to the car window and counted out $980.00 (1966 dollars). On our way back to San Antonio we splurged and stayed one night at the Holiday Inn. No, we weren’t what I call Army poor but were very rich. I mean how many kids get to live in Germany for 7 years (3 tours)?
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