Moving is always exciting, but a first trip overseas is very special indeed for a twelve year old.
The first time I went to Germany I was twelve years old. My dad had left in April of 1958 and I really can’t remember him leaving, but I do remember he wasn’t around and my mom told me he went to Germany and that we would be going to in a few months.
I remember my last days in school. We lived in a small New Jersey town and it was a distance from any army post. I wasn’t around any army brats. My friends where civilian kids and I don’t think many of them left that town to this day.
I went to a Catholic school and the nun who was my teacher, Sister Yolanda had announced to the class that I would not be returning to school next school year, instead I would be attending school in Germany and living there for about three years. I really didn’t tell anyone that I was going except for my closest friends. The kids really didn’t know anyone whose father was in the military.
In the weeks to come after school was out for the summer my mother and I would have to go to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital to get our shots. That’s when I found out that I was allergic to tetanus. In those days you got a lot of shots, not like today.
At the end of July my mother and I boarded a bus for New York to get a ship to Germany. I believe we went to Ft Hamilton in New York. I think my mother wasn’t to sure that we would make it to the post alive, as they really have some crazy taxi drivers.
After we reached our destination in one piece we stayed in some barracks that they had for the people who were departing for overseas. We spent the whole day there and the next day we where to leave.
The next morning we all went to the docks to board the ship (The General William O’Darby) which was funny as prior to my father leaving my parents went to see a movie called Darby’s Rangers and here we where on the ship named after the General who started the Rangers.
As always in the army its hurry up and wait. It was a long day getting onto the ship as they went by alphabetical order and our name started with L. I was excited as I never had been on a ship before.
After we boarded we went to our quarters and boy it was like being in a sardine can. We where in a small room with three other mothers and their daughters. We had bunk beds and each mother and daughter shared one. I made friends with one of the girls, she was my age and the other two little girls where about two or three.
We all went up on deck when the ship pulled out as they had a band and confetti and all the ceremony that you would see when ships left. I remember passing the Statue of Liberty and thinking I am leaving my home the country that I love so much. I cried a little as we went by that land mark.
We had fun on the ship. They had all sort of things for you to do and they tried very hard to keep the kids busy so I guess they wouldn’t get into trouble.
My mother and I sat at a table for our meals with about ten other people and one day we went to lunch and it was just my mom and I, and my mother asked the waiter where everyone was and he laughed and said that probably all are seasick as we had a few rough days. He said to my mom , now don’t you two get sick, as we waiters win a nice bet that they place amongst themselves.
I am happy to say our waiter did win. He told us to eat a lot of citrus fruits, but I never got sick. I love the ocean and I guess that’s why I leave here at the shore and right on the bay.
We where almost in Germany. We where on the English coast and we passed the White Cliffs of Dover something that I only read about in our geography books in school, but now here I was passing them on a ship.
We arrived in Bremenhaven and we departed the ship and they took us to the train station where we boarded a train for Frankfurt which took all night. We slept on the train in berths.
We arrived early at the Frankfurt train station and had to get a train to go to Fulda, where we would live. I think my mom was a little scared as things where strange and the language was not one we spoke. As we got off the train there in Frankfurt there was my dad.
He was supposed to be in the field, but they let him out to come pick us up. I could see the relief in my mothers face. We boarded a train for our new home. Here I was in a strange land with strange people and language I did not understand and really never learned just enough to get by. My dad took us to our new home. It wasn’t quarters. We live in town with the Germans for about five months before we got quarters.
Here was a new adventure starting in my life, not knowing that there would be many more to come. I cherish those early days as a military brat and am happy that I had the opportunity to do so. Of course I miss being home in the states and missing my brothers, who where much older then I and had their own families, but I do not regret that I had a chance to have a different life then I had at home.
I will always remember the friends I made and the friends that I haven’t seen since. I am also happy that my own children had the same opportunities as I. I think those of us that are military brats are certainly a different breed, a stronger breed and a more brighter breed, as we have had to endure a lot and we certainly have learned a lot.
So if you are now a young person cherish these days that you spend overseas and even if you live in a different place every three to four years. In years to come these will be memories that you will hold close to your heart and I advise you to keep a journal of your adventures so that you can share it with your family. I do know there is no place like home and we who are apart of this life know that your home is where you plant your feet.