Going to Germany by Betty Haynes

Enjoy this quick essay from my aunt about leaving for and arriving in Germany during the Vietnam War:

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

 In 1966, after serving a 1-year trip to South Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Army, my husband, Butch, received orders for Germany–the land of lederhosen, beer, polkas, and schnitzel. We were going to Germany, my grandmother’s ancestral home.  My preparations began:  shopping for winter clothes for myself and two children; deciding what household items to take and what to put in storage; getting inoculations and passports; taking goodbye tours to family members.  Then departure day arrived. Germany, here I come.

–Dallas Love Field many years ago

There was no DFW airport at that time. Love Field was the major airport for a flight to Philadelphia. Here the family came to wish us “Bon Voyage.” Selfishly, I had been so excited and busy that I forgot how my parents might feel about their younger daughter going so far away when we couldn’t even find Hopstaden, Germany on the map.  There was no email or Skype, and international calling was very expensive. My contact with family would be letters.  My mother was a strong woman and I had never seen her cry, but she had tears in her eyes and gave me a long good-bye hug.  I was ready to board, but for a long minute I wanted to stay.

Upon arrival at Philadelphia, I was loaded down like a pioneer woman walking the Oregon Trail: purse, diaper bag, holding  Kim’s  hand and carrying a 30-something pound one-and-a-half-year-old, Adam.  The U.S. Army had these archaic rules that officers should not carry their children while in full uniform.  I hadn’t signed on for this, but okay, I will do it for a trip to Germany. We were transported to the Transient BOQ at McGuire AFB where we had to spend the night which was a change in plans–so unpack and re-pack. Pampers were a thing of the future so I did some laundry and hoped that the German air would be more conducive to potty training.  Flight leaves at 4 pm.

Have you ever spent an entire day in an airport awaiting your departure when it is pushed back once, twice, and three times? Children tend to become very impatient and so do daddies who decide to go to the Officers’ Club.  Why me?  Oh, yes. I want to go to Germany. How long does it take to replace a windshield?  I trust these McGuire AFB airmen and know it will be safe. 8 pm: Don’t these people know that there are 50 children on this flight? They are tired and so are the adults.  No more coke or Dr. Pepper for me. (I didn’t drink coffee at the time and little did I know that Germany didn’t have Dr. Pepper).  Just get me on a plane without children–even my own. OK, not really, but I am so tired. But I do want to go!

Finally, the magic words came at 10 pm. “Flight 4017 may now board!” A rush ensues even though it is not Southwest Airlines because it hasn’t been born and we won’t go anywhere until all are boarded. A rumba is playing.  Now that makes no sense for a flight to Germany, but it is charter flight from a Latin America airline no longer in business. I really wanted to slap the stewardess and tell her to turn off that damn music.  Am I in a parallel universe?  Everyone buckled up and——the door will not shut and latch. Do I really want to go? Someone finally kicks it from the outside, and the pilot hammers from the inside, and we are ready.  Now I cannot get off!

The flight is really routine, but sleep evades a few of us on the plane except for the daddies of children. When we land it is dark at Frankfurt at 5:30 pm, and we are taken to the BOQ.  Both children go quickly to sleep after dinner and wake up wide-eyed and ready to play after a good nap: time–about 3 am.   My first brush with jet lag. I NEED SLEEP.  Did I really sign up for this?

The next day we spend shopping at the PX, doing laundry and trying to keep Kim and Adam busy, but they still wake up at 3 am. Then finally we are on the last leg of our journey. We leave for the bahnhof (train station), and Butch’s college German barely get us to where we need to go. I am pioneer woman again, but now I have a pair of boots bought at the PX.  But wait!  Baumholder is not where we are supposed to be going!!  What happened to Hopstaden? Where?  Does anyone care?  As we pass villages, I realize that I AM IN GERMANY and after Frankfurt, it looks like I thought it would:  small villages and rolling hills and valleys. Baumholder is the main military installation;   Hopstaden is the airfield and smaller than Talty, Texas, was at the time.  So, all is right with the world. This will be fun and adventurous–and it was.