During our training at CFB Borden in logistics and field army tactics called Environmental Specialty Land, almost all of my ninety or so classmates were officially asking for a posting to Germany following successful completion of their training. Germany was considered one of the best postings for a young officer. Living in Europe had its pluses: travel, good food, amazing souvenirs, clocks, chocolate, schnapps and furniture, it also came with overseas allowance, separation allowance, if applicable and, it was more prestigious – there was even a medal out of it: the NATO Service Medal. This seems unlikely now, but, unlike almost all of my colleagues, I did not ask for a posting to Germany. When asked, I told my career manager to send me anywhere. I have no strings and I have no wishes in particular. In my head, it would be a new adventure wherever I was sent. I was excited to really start my career and, it was a big wide world out there. Location wasn’t a big worry to me (although I would be sad to be sent away from Dean but, knew that that was inevitable).
I’ll never forget the day of the decisions for our postings. I kept seeing classmates with red-rimmed eyes, like they had been crying. Others were quiet and sullen. Others were frantically calling their spouses from the pay phones (we did not have cell phones in 1989) and arguing loudly or discussing quietly. Finally, it was my turn to go in. I had no idea that what she was about to say to me would shape my future: bring me my true love, a wonderful son and the happy, contented life I now enjoy.
My career manager remarked about my comments about send me anywhere. Hmm, she said, you’re doing well on your training. I like your attitude. How about Germany? Would you like to go to Germany? My answer was simple: sure, I said with a shoulder shrug. I was truly feeling like this was just another one of my adventures in life. I was feeling fortunate but trepidatious. It dawned on me that I shouldn’t walk out of that office and announce it to my classmates. I put a button on it and walked out looking down, like everyone else.
Then began the screening process for Germany. There were a few steps. The Canadian Forces wanted to ensure that healthy soldiers were sent overseas. Mine was easy. No family. No spouse. My no-strings life was likely the reason I was to be sent there. Much cheaper for them. I was still very much in love with my Newfoundlander classmate, Dean, the first person I met on training (see post: I’m in The Army Now), but it was one-sided. Me toward him, not both ways – not even close. In fact, I walked around like a love-sick cow and could barely speak whenever he was about. It was crazy.
So, I kept it on the low-down about my posting to Germany. So many others had so wanted to go there, I thought they would hate me if they found out I got it. Our training continued and I said nothing. One day, that I will never forget as long as I live, I was sitting in the common room of our barracks spit-polishing my boots. There were a few classmates in there too, chit chatting. Walter says to Randy: did you hear that Dean is going to Germany too?
My head came up.
I dropped my boot.
Oh my god.
It was meant to be.
It would only be a matter of time before we would be together. I knew this in my soul. This was another one of those pivotal times in my life when it seemed that the fates took over and steered my life in a certain direction. I was just going with it.
A few months later, I arrived in Germany and moved into my barrack room. It was a short walk to the Black Forest Officer’s Mess – one of the most beautiful messes in the Canadian Forces due to its German architecture, interior design and beautiful surroundings – forest and lush grounds. Canadian Forces Officers were treated well. I was in the common room, meeting up with some of the other folks who were in the same barracks. Hearing the tapping of cleats on the floor, I looked up and saw Dean walking toward me. Be still my heart. He was in his soccer gear and covered head to toe and long strong, muscled legs, in mud. He was so athletic, fit, boyish, gorgeous and delicious looking. I was tongue tied. With stars dancing in my eyes, I asked him what he was doing there. He told me he had heard I was arriving today and he thought he would come and meet me. Yikes. I was so in love. I was shocked that he was there for me. I remember feeling quite surprised but pleased that he was there…for me.
The next day Dean picked me up and we went to meet our new Commanding Officer. I was given ‘A’ platoon in Supply and Transportation Company of 4 Service Battalion. Dean had Supply Platoon, same company. So, we would be working closely together. I got that same warm feeling of anticipation. Again, it was being reinforced that we would be together.
So we began our careers side-by-side as young platoon commanders and it was busy – the learning curve was vast and challenging and not without tears. We attended daily meetings and orders groups. We went to gun-camps and field exercises together. We did physical fitness and marches. We had TGIFs and formal Mess dinners together and soon we started hanging out as friends. We would drive to neighbouring countries, cities and towns and villages. We would check out various restaurants and go for hikes or to a soccer match. We would find English movies to watch in various Movie houses. One of our favourite places to go was Strasbourg, France. It was so beautiful and medieval. We also loved going to the baths at Baden-Baden. We would stay at the baths for a few hours and walk on the cobble stone streets until we found a little bistro – famished from the baths.
Out on a field exercise once we had to do the Junior Officer Challenge. It was twenty-four hours and 75 km with eighteen mini-competition posts along the way. We nick-named it the Okey-Dokey Challenge. The other female officers dropped out, as did many of the male officers — mostly with blisters and injuries. Dean and I did the whole thing together. I was the only woman to finish. The picture here is of us at the last ‘competition’ – wine tasting. Dean and I were seated on a bench, side by side. We were blind folded for this one, for some reason. I had a sore knee. 75 km is a long way to walk in combat boots.
All this time we were spending together though, didn’t turn into romance. I found out that my Dean had a girl-friend back home in Newfoundland. Geez. What would I do about that. I was so in love with him. Then it hit me: make him jealous. That is what I did. I started dating gorgeous specimens whom I would meet around base or at the Officers’ Mess. Each gorgeous hunk I met and dated, I made sure to introduce to Dean: Pete, Greg, Chris, Fraser. He would prickle slightly when I would bring a new guy to him to meet. This went on for about eighteen months. One Friday, I had made a date with Fraser — a gorgeous, sweet-natured, blond-haired, blue-eyed, muscled helicopter pilot and I was to meet him at the Mess. I was in my office when in walks Dean and sits down. He asked me to go to a soccer banquet with him later that evening. I asked him if this was a date. Yes, he said. Well, I was so mad. I called him an asshole. He looked at me with shock. I asked him if he thought I had nothing going on on a Friday night. I told him about my date and that no, I couldn’t go to his silly banquet. I was seething.
A couple hours later I was with Fraser and all I was doing was talking about Dean and how much he angered me. How could he really expect me to be just available to him, just like that. I went on and on. Fraser looked at me and said: Morgan, go to the banquet. Don’t worry about me. Just go.
Off I went. The banquet was in a restaurant just up the street from my apartment. After the banquet, we walked to my apartment arm-in-arm. We have been together ever since. That was 1990. It is now 2017 and I am the luckiest girl in the world.
After we started dating, we began to go away on weekend or week-long trips. We went skiing in the Swiss Alps, staying at a chalet. The Alps were beyond belief. We would ride various lifts up to the peak, spend a couple hours skiing up there then ski down to a chalet for lunch and a beer – the scenery from the chalet was enough to bring tears to your eyes. Spectacular. After refreshments, we would ski for a couple more hours in the middle of the alps and then ski down to the base where we would find the lodge and end our day. It was blissful.
Another trip found us in the Austrian Alps on an Officer Adventure Training trip. Well subsidized. The Austrian Alps were also spectacular. This time we were staying in a quaint village that looked like something from a painting or a Christmas card. So picturesque with its crooked, old stone buildings, shutters, balconies, cobble stones, wrought iron and of course, the layer of pure white snow on every surface.
The best trip we went on together though was to Corfu, Greece. We had two weeks together at an all-inclusive resort and we had an amazing trip. The trip ended with the two of us exchanging identical rings on a hill in an olive grove. We were now engaged to be married. Oh happy day!
In Corfu we met an older couple named Mary and David from Scotland. They made the mistake of inviting us to their home the visit some day. Well, we went. We flew into London on a military air craft. We saw Les Miserables, a Tottenham soccer match and we walked and explored all around parts of London. We went to Harrods and stayed in a B & B. Then we took a bus north to Glasgow. Mary and David handed us a shot of whiskey as we arrived at their house. For the next couple of days, they toured us around the countryside to see ruins of Castles, Inverness Village, boutiques and tea shops. In one shop, I bought a lavender coloured kilt that I later wore to be married in. Dean bought a deer stocker hat. We went to the pictures one night and then it was over. We headed back to London and flew back to Germany. One regret is that we did not get over to Ireland. To date, we have still not been to Ireland and we would truly like to go.
It was at about this stage in our young relationship that we started to discuss the idea of getting out of the army. We would make our own way out on civvie street. We had no real idea what we would do for jobs, but, we knew for certain that we did not want to be ‘in’ any longer. We were honourably discharged from the Canadian Forces in March of 92 and moved in with Dean’s parents into their 800 square foot house in Newfoundland. A few months later we started another adventure…travelling all over Canada and into Alaska in our 1976 VW Van named ‘Betsy’ that we brought home from Germany. Ahhh, but, that’s another post…