You never know what will trigger your memories.
Norty and I just attended a retirement ceremony at Hurlburt Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The ceremony was for Lt. General and Mrs. Eric Fiel. Eric was a young Lt in the 8th SOS squadron when my husband was a young Captain. This was our first duty assignment as a married couple. I was an unhappy camper then and remained that way for many months. But I made friends; after being assigned there two more times during our long Air Force career, I now go back and the memories bring me joy.
Let me tell you a bit about connections and friends, as I describe our 4th of July weekend to the Florida Panhandle.
The connections actually started a couple of weeks prior to our arrival. A wonderful young man who worked for Norty contacted me through my Facebook page. (You just have to LOVE Facebook, don’t you?) He had seen that we were attending the retirement ceremony and wondered if we also needed rooms while there. We did and he booked them! How great was that?!
The ceremony itself was just wonderful and I was overwhelmed when Lt. General Fiel singled me out and thanked me for being a mentor to his wife, Donna. It was so sweet. Norty and I sat in that hanger and remembered the two of them as a much younger couple. We were so proud of all they accomplished and all they did for our Air Force and for our country.
The next day we had dinner with two more Hurlburt friends. The Hobson’s were our squadron command team when we were first married and then many years later General Hobson was the Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command while Norty commanded the Wing at Hurlburt. They were our next-door neighbors during Hurricane Opal. Their home was almost destroyed, so I organized a team to help the Hobson’s (and all the affected families) for almost 2 weeks straight. We always joke that I washed over 100 golf shirts that belonged to Gen. Hobson. It is a sad memory AND a happy memory as we have maintained a wonderful friendship ever since.
The next night we had dinner with two wonderful couples. One couple took care of Nort when he was a brand new Lt. stationed at Clark AB, Philiplpines. The other couple was with us at Hurlburt. We laughed and told stories and got caught up. You might not realize these great people you meet along the way with remain a part of your life forever!
On our last full day in Fort Walton, I had brunch with the first friend I ever made after marrying my husband and becoming an Air Force Spouse. I have spoken of my good friend, Honey Jennings, for many years. We have shared everything over these past 33 years and I look forward to more sharing in the future. We don”t talk much in between my visits to the Florida Panhandle, but we always catch up in minutes and we can talk for hours as if we have never been apart.
Later that evening we connected with a wonderful young Air Force Major who had worked for us while Norty was the Air Force Chief of Staff. Mick was attending a course and we were able to meet up with him and his family. We still keep up through our passion for SEC football–even if he graduated from LSU and I am an Arkansas Razorback. I am SO glad he contacted us and that we had an opportunity to catch up in person.
So, over the long weekend, those memories met me coming and going. I know I have rambled on, but a visit to one base can bring back memories and friends from several years ago. You don’t know it now if you are a young spouse and struggling, but I promise that those memories and friends will warm your heart AND they will last a lifetime.