Everything started falling apart in June when Joe got a notice from the draft ordering him to active duty! He tried for deferments; he was now 34 years old with four children and the fifth on the way. We wrote to everyone right up to the President, but received the same standard replies – we need him. His orders arrived shortly thereafter – the address was APO
Mom had undergone an emergency c-section with her last baby (Julie has always been the difficult one), and with her due date just 2 months later, my parents knew that the next baby would also take the front door out of mom’s prolific womb. The c-section was scheduled for August 21st, Dad’s orders were to report to basic training on August 22nd. But the US Army is neither heartless nor rigid; of course they extended his deployment date! They gave him three weeks.
On September 12, 1967, Joe left for M.D. basic training in
Mom and Dad did their best to settle in to their newly massacred lives. Mom had lots of help from family and friends, Dad had 5 doctor roommates in his “hooch.” Mom and Dad sent each other audio tapes every day. Every. Day. If mom didn’t receive her tape one day, she’d haul everyone over to the post office to see if it had arrived after the postman had left to make his deliveries.
Aside: as kids, we had the scandalous pleasure of listening to some of these tapes many years later. But honestly, all that love and emotion between our parents was just plain gross.
On two distant ends of the earth, my parents were frantically searching for ways to be together. Mom wrote letters. Dad worked the system. There was housing available for dependents, but there was a strict hierarchy about who qualified, and our favorite young doc was relatively low on that totem pole. When a house did become available, first dibs went to all of the senior officers, who promptly turned it down. For them it meant prolonging their stay to two years in order to have their dependents join them, but for a career officer, this cushy 13 month “hardship tour” in
It was a golden opportunity for us – Joe volunteered to extend his tour and spend the two years of service there, and for this his entire family would be brought over! This sounds easy on paper, but it took months of letters, phone calls, anticipations, disappointments, and finally I received a telegram on a Saturday morning in February telling me that that we were on our way – start getting the inoculations! I started that very day – took everyone over to Dr. Flynn, our longtime pediatrician, where he started inoculating the girls against plague, cholera, typhus – you name it!
So, mom and the girls got ready to move to
When the day finally came, it turned out that the plan was off to a rocky start. Mom and the girls were scheduled to fly from JFK to
My Mom and family were weeping, Sitoo and Uffie (Joe’s mom and sister) were weeping, Dink Brown was weeping – I was grinning from ear to ear!
A motel in
Mom and the girls (ages: 6 months, 18 months, 4, 6, and 7… go ahead and imagine that) made lots of nice friends during these travels. For plane changes, anyone who was “helping” was allowed to pre-board with the civilians, so there were always at least ten soldiers at Mom’s beck and call. It wasn’t easy, but it was forward motion. And by the time they boarded a nearly empty flight from
Suddenly, they were descending! The five girls were in their little beds, there was stuff everywhere, it was cold out and they needed jackets and they probably all had to pee….
Meanwhile, on the ground, Dad was frantic. Communication had been shoddy, he had not received word that their flight had been delayed, so he didn’t know when they were coming. He had arranged for a car and driver and a truck and driver to transport his arriving harem and their impressive amount of gear, and he spent two days driving to Kimpo airport to meet each incoming plane from Seattle/Tokyo. Twice the caravan had to turn back disappointed. On the third attempt he asked to see the manifest and there it was: Corey, Corey, Corey, Corey, Corey, and Corey. They were here!
On the plane: The rules said that the civilians had to deplane first, so the servicemen were all standing by until Mom and the girls could get themselves out the door. “Can’t he come and help me?”
On the ground: Dad was in the hanger, pleading to be allowed onto the plane, but rules are rules…
On the plane: Ellie still needed to be buttoned into her coat, they were almost ready…
On the ground: Finally, a kind-hearted lieutenant gave Dad a nod and let him on the plane…
I looked up and there was Joe – I hadn’t seen him in four months! I left Ellie to finish buttoning her coat and ran into his arms. As we were kissing, I became aware of applause – all the servicemen on the plane were standing and cheering – what a scene!
Exactly 268 days later, mom learned how to play honeymoon bridge, and spent the whole day doing just that with her doctor at Seoul Military Hospital, while the big girls were at school and the little ones played at home in the pink stucco duplex by the golf course. Mom was Dr.
But could someone please check that math? I’m way too young to be forty.
Our two year stay in
Thanks for that, mom and dad. And for being enamored and tenacious enough to live out this story. I couldn’t have done it without you!