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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy 55th Billy Boy!

What do I say about a guy named Bill? Oh, I am pretty proud of him you might say. Just a little bit. He has been in my life since March of 1976. He must have a lot of patience huh? Heck, he even still likes me. Really!

We were both students at Wright State University in Dayton but actually met at a rest stop in Kentucky. "Mommy? Where did you meet Daddy?" "Well sweetie, your Father and I met when both of us stopped to use the, um, facilities at a highway rest stop. It was very romantic..."

Okay, so a less than magical place to meet the man with whom you would share your life but hey. You take what you get right?

3 of my friends, T., C. and C. and I were on our way to Gatlinburg, TN for Spring Break. Bill and his buddies, M. and R. were doing the same. T. knew M. from work and, when we saw them at the rest stop, she stopped to chat and we all introduced ourselves. Long story short, we met up again in Gatlinburg and spent a lot of time together. I was immediately smitten with this cute guy in the wire frame glasses. Longish curly hair, flannel shirts, boots and jeans...with a cockeyed smile, a shy manner and a quick, self deprecating wit.

9 months later we were engaged, on Christmas Eve to be exact. In August of 1978, just weeks after college graduation, we were married. One week later he left for the US Navy's Aviation Officer's Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida. Have you seen "An Officer and a Gentleman"? Yeah, like that (but why didn't they have the school in Florida? Weird...) only rougher (and please do NOT think a candidate is gonna fight with his drill instructor and STILL graduate, thank you Richard Gere!). The idea is to break them, physically and emotionally, so they can withstand the rigors of war and possible capture. Did I mention that I was just a wee bit frightened during this time? Oh yeah...I could only see him on weekends and, at first, only in public and there was NO physical contact. Nope, not even holding hands was allowed. Wow, wasn't being a newlywed fun? Still...

It was there, in a tiny Pensacola apartment, that the whirlwind of military life began. It was never easy. It was full of upheaval, heart breaking worry and flat out, mind numbing fear. I spent oh so many years feeling like I would never have a real home & horribly missing my family and friends in Ohio. I went from being the happy, contented college coed to a young wife who was always the new kid in town/on base/in a squadron and who suffered from nagging loneliness, who felt lost when Bill was away. Unfortunately, in those early years, he was away all the time.

But you know, how can I ever say I would trade those years for a more *normal* married life? We also experienced the most profoundly delirious joy with each ship/squadron homecoming. We have lived in some amazing places and gotten to know so much about this nation, and it's history, through our travels. I learned to stand on my own two feet and to become more self reliant, heck. I had no choice! We created a family with our new military friends from all over the world. I can not imagine a life without those people in it.

We also became a team in the truest sense of the word. We often had only each other to rely on and that we did. Oh, I whined and fussed and cried and complained plenty believe me but, in the end, I was (and will always be) Bill's biggest champion and supporter.

He gave 27 years of his life to his country and was so very proud to serve it. He was dedicated and loyal and brave. He had tremendous highs but also suffered great losses. He watched friends crash & he lost his entire crew to a tragic aircraft fire, at sea, just weeks after he was transferred on to another position.

He traveled the world and had experiences that beg him to one day write a book!

He is a very unselfish man, having served thousands of volunteer hours with various charities. He has mentored many a young person from several organizations and donated gallons of blood and even bone marrow to those who needed it. He would never tell anyone about this...nor would he tell you about his Air Medals, his Hawkeye of the Year Award (comparable to an *Academy Award* for fliers!) or any of his other accomplishments. He is the most modest man I have ever known.

He loves The Grateful Dead, jazz, running, off beat films, books, history, traveling, stand up comedy, animals, The 3 Stooges, our pets, our family, our kids and me!

What great taste the man has huh?

I love ya Billy...I can not imagine my life spent with anyone else. God Bless you.

Happy, happy 55th birthday!