During Desert Storm, I really learned the value of the military community. My husband, an E-4, was stationed in Mannheim, Germany, when he was deployed to Kuwait as part of a heavy-equipment transport unit. When he left, I was eight months pregnant and could not even bend over to tie my own shoes. I was involved, however, in the local chapter of P.W.O.C. (Protestant Women of the Chapel). One of the ladies in our chapter invited me and my 2-year-old daughter to come stay with her family the last couple of weeks before the due date. Another woman who was active military (and knew me from the choir) was bilingual and offered to help me as a translator during my delivery. (This happened in a local German hospital, rather than the American hospital in Heidelberg, 35 mins. from Mannheim.) One of the chaplains’ wives invited me to stay in her home after delivery. I was well taken care of, in spite of my husband’s absence.
The birth of my second child (a son) came and went with no hitches. The German hospital policy was to keep normal delivery patients for a week, so I had plenty of time to rest. However, when my son was between ten and fourteen days old, I was visiting a close friend. Sometime late in the evening she decided I needed a trip to the emergency room. I was too ill to think, but another of the local chaplains came and picked me up, along with the baby. My daughter stayed at my friend’s house, while the chaplain and I spent all night in the Heidelberg Hospital emergency room. I turned out to be dehydrated and needed a 4-hr IV. The chaplain very patiently and obligingly held my baby during the ordeal, and then drove me back to Mannheim to my friend’s house.
I had people all around me to support me during the pregnancy and during my son’s first 4-1/2 months of life, but what I found to be the most humorous situation was the way in which troops were deployed. Most of the active military in Germany were deployed to the war zone, but some of the gaps still needed to be filled in for the remaining dependants overseas. For this reason, a number of reserve troops from stateside were deployed to Europe. My husband left for Desert Storm in mid-January and toward the end of January, his sister (a reserve nurse) was stationed in Landstuhl at the army hospital there—a little more than an hour’s drive from Mannheim on the autobahn. She got to spend time with me and her niece and nephew, providing some measure of family support to me during her brother’s absence. She even got to see the newborn before my husband did. Then, of course, in the way that Uncle Sam does, she was sent home to the states less than two weeks before my husband’s return from the war…
Still, all in all, for being thousands of miles away from the familiar U.S. and my own immediate family, the surrogate family, provided by the military chapel community, helped me keep my feet on the ground and my focus on the Lord. There was the local Hospitality House where I could hang out on Sundays and have a communal meal with the host family and all my brothers in the Lord (most of them single soldiers) who proved to be great uncles to my kids. Then there was the local P.W.O.C., a great place for me to hang with all my sisters in Christ. And I was involved in a weekly Friday-night gathering where we had the greatest time worshipping and sharing our needs and concerns so that we could receive prayer and practical help. People cared about me and called me and befriended me… and we were all over there because the military had stationed each of us in a foreign country in the service of this country—helping to ensure for others the freedom we take so much for granted here.