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If anyone desires to know more about what military life is really like, I would recommend standing in line for a half hour at the on-post post office. What you can learn there will give you more insight than even possibly the most well-written book on the subject.
I knew when I drove into the parking lot it would be a very long wait.
There were probably a good ten plus people in front of me. And as the time passed, by the time I left there was probably another ten behind me. I have to highlight just a few.
In front of me was a man in ACUs talking with a woman. I overheard them talking about what it’s like to be stationed around the Washington DC area, and he was encouraging her how much she would absolutely love Germany.
In front of them was a middle-aged mother with three children. The older two boys were upper-elementary aged, skinny, and quite well behaved. They had military haircuts and the look of wisdom that comes from years of having to be the “men of the house.” Between them and their mother I counted four packages that were being prepared to be sent to some APO overseas. The flat-rate boxes nicely taped and the international customs forms all filled out. (This seasoned military wife is a pro at this!)
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Their sister was snuggled fast asleep in a baby carrier that was resting at the feet of their mother, all pretty in pink. It was this little one who held my attention for most of this half hour. She seemed so peaceful. I envied her and her blissful ignorance of all that was going on around her. Ignorance of the post office commotion and her brothers’ quiet impatience; but also ignorance of the fact that her father (who in all probability given her age she may not have even met yet) is on the other side of the world. She was simply content to rest and not know that all might not be right in the world.
In front of them was a VERY young military couple. The gal was wearing black shorts and a gray army PT t-shirt. I overheard them talking about something that happened in basic training.
A few people behind me there was another middle aged mother with two small children. She shushed and fussed at them in German, and they babbled back. By their features it seemed that the children were possibly half African-American, half German. (Not really that uncommon of a combination for those in the military.)
But the one that meant the most to me was a soldier standing right behind me. He walked in and after waiting about two minutes made a short phone call. By eavesdropping I was able to infer that the lady on the other end was waiting out in the car for him. He was letting her know it was going to be a while before he’d be out, and wondered if she wanted to come in or wait in the car. She decided to wait so he hung up the phone…but he ended the conversation with a sweet and affectionate “I love you babe…”
Some people would probably think that is silly, to say such a thing when you just saw her, and would be seeing her again as soon as the line in the post office was cleared. But military couples quickly learn to treasure every moment that can be spent together…to make the most of the little things.
After another ten minutes or so of waiting, this man left. I don’t know if he had somewhere else to be, or if his wife was nagging him through text message to hurry up, or if he was simply impatient…I’d like to be romantic and imagine that he simply couldn’t stand being away from her that long.
Then there was plain old me…makeupless, messy hair, and my husband’s oversized sweatshirt…holding my nicely taped flat-rate box and my customs form.
Yes, I had to wait a long time…but I took those moments to look around at the people around me, listen to their conversations, look into their eyes, and learn their stories by simple observation.
It was a half-hour well spent.