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Karen Urette

Karen Urette’s Recollection of Mike’s Secret Mission

The following is by Karen Urette whose marriage to Mike Urette K-2 is approaching sixty years.

Remember the 60s? No cell phones, long distance calls were expensive, no email and the Signal Corps communicated via line-of-sight antennas. Mike, like most of his class had completed Officers Basic Course, Airborne or Ranger school and was on his first assignment in Germany stationed at Goeppingen with the 144th Signal Battalion of the 4th Armored Division.

We loved living in Germany and were fortunate that my family was then living in Verdun, France where my dad was the Command Engineer for the 4th Logistical Command. No stateside phone calls needed! And though not right next door, my family was close enough to spend Christmases together and to baby sit our two little ones when Mike and I explored Europe. An added bonus was that I could “run home” with kids and German Shepherd in tow when Mike headed off to Graff for field exercises – preparing to protect us from a Russian invasion. It was a wonderful first tour until...

One lovely late spring day in 1964, Mike came home unexpectedly early with the news that he had to leave the next day! He had been selected for – well, he couldn’t tell me that, he couldn’t tell me where he was going, he couldn’t tell me how long he might be gone, he couldn’t tell me if he could call or write me, he couldn’t tell me if he would even come back to Goeppingen. He couldn’t tell me anything except that if he was gone for very long then the Army would send me “home”. They wouldn’t let me go to my family in Verdun but the Army “would take care of me”. All I could imagine was being off planed at McGuire AFB with an infant, an almost two-year-old, a dog and nowhere to call home. Plan A: put up a brave front and trust in the Army; Plan B: start saving change for a stateside pay phone marathon to find a “home”.

I kissed my soldier a tearful good bye and concentrated on staying calm all the while wondering “why my Mike”. Our little ones kept me busy and my mind occupied -- except in the evenings. In the 60s, there was no English language TV in Germany so after tucking the kids in bed I would listen to the American Forces Network on our radio and read the Stars and Stripes -- all in the vain hope that maybe, just maybe, there might be a mention of a “special mission” or some clue as to where Mike was. But as expected the Army kept its secrets secret.

The days, then the weeks and then the month passed. His commander would check on me occasionally and the company wives almost daily. But still, I was so tempted to just go AWOL and “run home” to Verdun!

Mail, as in snail, was a bright spot though the lack of a letter from Mike always dimmed the delivery. And then, one evening I was reading our latest issue of the US News and World Report – and there it was! A small news piece about special training taking place at the John F. Kennedy Center for Special Warfare at Ft. Bragg, NC. The report speculated on rumors that a special force had been created of French speaking, Airborne trained personnel for an unknown something. Mike spoke French – check! Mike was Airborne qualified – check! It had to be…

The relief was rejuvenating, if Mike was at Ft. Bragg he was safe and I knew where he was!

Time then passed more quickly until the day his commander came to tell me that Mike was coming back to Germany. He arrived a long week later after visiting his parents in Monterey and yes, he had been at Ft. Bragg training as the Signal Officer for a “Mobile Training Team” whose mission was to provide communication support for contingency operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (now Zaire). His “secret mission” had been cancelled, he was thankfully home and I promptly renewed our subscription to US News and World Report!

– After Word –

Several years later, Mike and I met a lovely couple at a small restaurant in Alexandria, VA. The couple had just returned from a tour of duty in the Congo and as Mike was considering an assignment to the Congo, we thought it wise to find out more about the opportunity. It might be an exciting adventure to a part of the world we had never visited! Towards the end of our evening, I asked the wife what she had enjoyed the most about living there. After a rather long, uncomfortable pause, she finally said “The strawberries are the largest I’ve ever seen”. We didn’t go.












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