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Running Down A Dream: Mamma Won!

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Mamma Won!

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Running Down A Dream: Mamma Won!

Running Down A Dream

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mamma Won!

About a week ago, Mamma told me that she had entered a contest online. Recently, I bragged on here to everyone what a great writer she is : ) And yet again, she has proven herself by WINNING the essay contest. The writers were supposed to "tell about their Best Summer Experience" And I even learned a few details about this story which I had never heard! She wrote about when Daddy was leaving for Vietnam and she was preggers with my older brother. Her due date was the same time he was leaving. But there's a LOT more to the story. Enjoy!


In thinking back over all my many summers' experiences, one has to stand out above all others. It was the birth of my first baby and all the obstacles that had to be overcome in order to share that precious moment with my husband. First of all, I was a relative newlywed, having been married for twelve months and two days. I was young and in love and knew nothing about having babies. My husband, Larry, was in the Army and scheduled to leave for Vietnam around the time of my due date which was August 12, 1968. But first, he had to attend Jungle School in Panama for two weeks. At this point, we thought he would be allowed to come home for a couple of days after he completed his school, but he didn't have the date for his port of call in San Francisco, so we didn't know for sure.

Larry, being a Lieutenant in the Infantry, was lucky to have been selected to go to Jungle School. Panama was on the same longitude as Vietnam, so it gave him a little time to get acclimated to the hot, humid climate before he had to confront a true combat situation. It also provided invaluable training in survival, escape, and evasion in a jungle setting. In preparing to go to this school, he was given two pieces of advice by a graduate of the course. This buddy had told him to take two items, with him -- poultry seasoning and iodine.

The poultry seasoning was to be used during the thirty-six hour escape and evasion phase where the soldiers were given a huge area to get from Point A to Point B using only a compass and a map and with "opposing forces" trying to capture them. Chickens were to be let loose in this area, and since the soldiers had no food, if they could catch a chicken and eat it, then they would earn extra points. Larry's buddy had told him that the evaluators conducting the operation would taste his chicken and he would get more points if he used poultry seasoning. You had to have a certain number of points to graduate. As it turned out, Larry never saw a chicken and the poultry seasoning remained unused.

The iodine, however: was a different story. It's purpose was to use on cuts which could easily get infected in the hot, moist environment. A few days before the end of the course, the iodine came in handy. One of the soldiers had a bad cut and asked if anyone had anything to put on it. Larry passed his bottle of iodine down along the line to the soldier who used it and passed it back to him. Larry put the iodine back into his back pocket not knowing that the lid was not screwed on tightly. As the day progressed with rain pouring down, he eventually realized that he was feeling an intense burning sensation on his backside!!! This happened right before the thirty-six hour escape and evasion exercise that he had to complete to graduate from the course. The medic that checked him said that he had a second degree chemical burn and would have to go to the hospital immediately. But Larry was not about to let a little thing like a second degree burn on his backside keep him from earning the patch for his uniform that would signify he was a full-fledged Jungle Expert. So he made a compromise with the medic and promised to check into the hospital as soon as the course was over. The medic wrapped him up in bandages which promptly came off as soon as he crossed the first waist-deep stream, but he did finish the course and then, kept his promise. He checked into the hospital and was told that he would be there for a week.

Now, by this time he had received his orders and port of call date which would allow him a couple of days at home before he had to be in San Francisco, but he would not get to come home at all if he stayed in the hospital for a week. With a baby due any minute, he was on a mission to spend as much time at home as was possible. So he waited until all was quiet, retrieved his clothes from the locker and slipped out the window in the middle of the night! Once he was back with his Company, he was able to catch his scheduled flight back to the States. He had a connecting flight in Atlanta with not much time in between. Back in the 60's, they didn't have trains to take you from one terminal to the other, so he really had to hustle to catch his connecting flight. Well, while he was speed walking, the ace bandage that was wound around his leg and backside, began to come loose, and the faster he walked, the more it unraveled until it was hanging out the leg of his uniform, dragging behind him all through the airport for everyone to see! But he didn't have time to stop!

Meanwhile, I was at home, excitedly awaiting his arrival and praying that our baby would come before he had to leave for San Francisco.

Unfortunately, Larry's safe arrival at home did NOT coincide with little Joe Stovall's appearance. My due date came and went. So we started exploring the possibilities of getting a few days extension to Larry's departure date. The first thing we tried was having my ob-gyn write a letter explaining that it was in the best interest of my health for Larry to be with me when the baby was born. That letter resulted in an extension of one extra day. That was great, but it wasn't enough time. I'm not sure who we contacted next, but I remember precisely that it bought us another two days. Still not enough time. However, Larry had been assured by the Pentagon that two extensions was all he could get!

Now, when Larry had joined the Army, he had been told that if he ever had a problem that he couldn't solve, the best thing to do was to visit the post chaplain. So he gathered me up, looking like a watermelon about to explode and we went to Fort Campbell, about an hour's drive from where we lived and presented our case to the head chaplain. He was a seasoned Colonel who had served in World War II . Larry told him that he wasn't trying to get out of going to Vietnam, that he just needed a few more days so that he could be here when his baby was born. This Colonel told Larry that he thought the request was reasonable, and he picked up the phone, made a call to Headquarters, Department of the Army and got Larry's date of departure extended for two more weeks.

We were thrilled, and Joe Stovall arrived on August 22. We had run the gamut of emotions and were very thankful that we were able to spend this summer experience together. Larry even had five whole extra days to get acquainted with his son before he had to leave. Saying good-bye to my husband with a new-born baby in my arms, not knowing if I would ever see him again, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

I made a countdown calendar out of colored paper and white stickon numbers that showed how many weeks were left on Larry's tour. Every Sunday night, I would flip a page in the calendar and we would have one week less to wait. I would prop Joe up next to the calendar and take his picture. That way Larry could see how much he had grown on a weekly basis.

Forty years later, we have a total of four children and seven grandchildren. Larry has been home for the birth of every single one of them. I guess unless you have lived through it, no one can understand how it feels to be separated in war times. But having triumphed over so many obstacles and having had a compassionate chaplain make it possible for us to share the birth of our first child, definitely made that summer experience the best I've ever
had.

Peace. Love. Fiddle.
~natalie

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3 Comments:

Blogger Village People said...

Beautiful story. My wife Beth and I are celebrating 19 years of marriage today. Two of our four children are Ducklings in Honk, Jr. this summer (your Duckiling blog was cute too). Beth and our oldest Emily saw your show at UW Parkside in Kenosha (you ahd picture of them on your blog and Emily was in The Music Man) and they can't wait to see you in the area again. Beth is your Earful1 follower on Twitter and a message sent by you would make her day! Children are a joy and we wish you luck.

June 30, 2009 at 8:29 AM  
Anonymous chirstie said...

SPECIAL and PRECIOUS are the only words I can think of to express what great parents you have. Something most people may not know is that your whole family is this way. In todays world it is refreshing to see families like the one you have. You all have always made us feel part of your extended family. We love you all and only wish the very best for you...all our love, the McDonald's from Columbia Tennessee

June 30, 2009 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Natalie's Favorite Farm Boy Fan : ) said...

Congratulations to your Mamma !!

All us fans of Natalie would also like to thank your Mamma and your Dad for letting the talent seedlings of you and your siblings sprout again and again under the beautiful branches of their talent tree !!

June 30, 2009 at 7:30 PM  

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