Introduction to “Military Brats” – 13

This is my paradox.  Because of my military life, I’m a stranger everywhere, and a stranger nowhere.  I can engage anyone in a conversation, become well-liked in a matter of seconds, yet there is always a distance I can never recover, a slight shiver of alienation, of not belonging, and an eye on the nearest door.  The word goodbye will always be a killing thing for me, but so is the word hello.  I’m pathetic in my attempts to make friends with everyone I meet, from cabdrivers to bellhops to store clerks.  As a child my heart used to sink at every new move or set of orders.  By necessity, I became an expert at spotting outsiders.  All through my youth, I was grateful for unpopular children. In their unhappiness, I saw my chance for rescue and I always leapt at it.  When Mary writes about military brats offering emotional blank checks to everyone in the world, she’s writing the first line of my biography.

Yet I can walk away from my best friends and rarely think of them again.  I can close a door and not look back.  There’s something about my soul that’s always ready to go, to break camp, to unfold the road map, to leave at night when the house inspection’ done and the civilians are asleep and the open road is calling to the Marine and his family again.  I left twenty towns at night singing the Marine Corps hymn and it’s that hymn that sets my blood on fire each time I hear it, and takes me back to my ruined and marvelous childhood.

So familiar; so descriptive…

I can be driving and “sense’ a jet near.  Maybe I catch a flash, or hear the acceleration of the engine, or just flat look up – and there it is – an F-16 from out at the base.  I don’t think it coincidence that I chose to live in retirement under the flightpath of the jets from out there.  The roar of their engines still make my blood boil…

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