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Karen Joulwan

Memories of an Army Wife

My first attempt at this article resulted in 1500 words!  I have edited it again and again and selected a select few experiences to share with you.

When George returned from his second tour in Vietnam, he was assigned as Tac at West Point.  We moved into a triple next door to Phil and Sharon Mallory. Unfortunately, our 3 years at WP became about 8 months as George left for Washington to be Aide to the soon to be Vice Chief of the Army, Alexander Haig ’47. Because I was pregnant with our third child, who George was sure was going to be his longed-for son, the family couldn’t move.  Our careful planning was upended when I went into labor and of course he was in DC!  Phil drove me to the hospital, Sharon took care of the kids, and Glynn Mallory visited.  George made his way to WP and was coming onto Post as the Corps was escorting the football team to the Gate; it was in fact the weekend of the Army/Navy game!  Remember the comment about a longed-for son?  His enthusiasm was a bit dashed!  He got to meet our daughter who didn’t yet have a name and then went to a class party.  I don’t remember who won the football game, but I was pleased with the name you chose.

While in DC, the doctors at Walter Reed recommended that Chris, our middle daughter, have open heart surgery to repair a birth defect.  It had been previously diagnosed but that didn’t lessen the anxiety.  But a plus, John Eileson now a thoracic surgeon was on the staff and had arranged to be on Chris’s team.  I don’t remember much about the meeting with the doctors except that George mentioned John’s propensity to fumble the football!

President Nixon promoted George to Lt Col, the ceremony was in the Oval Office. The girls were reminded to be on their best behavior. After the ceremony, we were making small talk – with the President of United States OMG – when Jessica toddled over to him, raised her arms, saying up!  Now in all my memory, I don’t think I had ever seen Richard Nixon holding a baby.  But he picked her up and carried her over to one of the display cases and began telling her about the Boehm birds on display.  Thank goodness the White House photographer reacted faster than anyone else and snapped great pictures of the event!  They are priceless.

I accompanied George to the White House for Pres. Nixon’s farewell speech to the staff.  We were standing at the back of the foyer in front of the elevator. Suddenly, the door opened and there were the Nixon’s; they were holding hands.  He seemed to hesitate slightly; Pat smiled at him, squeezing his hand and they exited the elevator and walked into the East Room. That image is burned in my memory.

One of the ever-present symbols of our many years in Europe was the Berlin Wall.  George was there when it was built and was a Corps commander when it fell.  Several weeks later, we were in Berlin.  One evening after dinner, George had the driver take us to the Brandenburg Gate and we walked to the wall.  He was in a suit; I was in a dress and heels.  We stood looking at the wall, lit by spotlights, with hundreds of people hacking away at it with hammers and chisels; someone pointed out steps that had been cut in the side.  Up we went!  Hand in hand we were standing on the remnants of the infamous Berlin Wall!  Unfortunately, this happened before the days of cell phones so there is no picture.

After 15 years of service in Europe, the Army sent us to SOUTHCOM in Panama!  We were met by non-other than classmate, Kaiser Bazan, who would soon become the Vice President!  My most lasting memory of those 3 years occurred in the first week!  There was an insurrection, and I woke up to a machine gun emplacement in my front yard!  George assured me that it wasn’t serious but…..!

In 1993 our journey took us back to Belgium and NATO. It was a special time for the alliance; the Partnership for Peace was just getting started, we had officers and their families from 13 partner nations.

As we prepared to leave SHAPE and the Army, I had a luncheon for the Partnership wives.  I remembered an Ann Hand pin in the shape of an olive branch. That would be my parting gift to them.  The staff translated the legend of the olive branch in each language.  The next day was my farewell luncheon hosted by the wives club.  The partnership ladies were in charge.  When I walked into the room, hanging from the ceiling were white doves!  I was stunned! They understood everything we had been trying to show them!

Back in 1966, I had no idea what being an Army wife meant, I had no idea what West Point meant!  Every time I hear the Army song, I tear up!  Every time I hear the Alma Mater, I tear up!  I am so proud to be associated with all of you! Go Army! Beat Navy!












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