During our training at CFB Borden, Ontario 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 an 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 unbelievable now, but, unlike almost all of my colleagues, I did not ask for a posting to Germany. When interviewed, I told my career manager to send me anywhere. I am 22 with 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 exit the interview office with red-rimmed eyes, like they had been crying. Others were quiet and sullen. Others were frantically calling their spouses from the pay phones (there were no 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. Good health. Good teeth. 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 secretly in love with my Newfoundlander classmate, Dean, the first person I met on training in 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 calf and could barely speak whenever he was about. It was crazy. I had never before been so affected by a prospective date.
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?’
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. I have since come across something in a novel by Anthony Horowitz...it is the belief that there are no coincidences but that rather, everything in life has a pattern and that a coincidence is simply the moment that the pattern becomes briefly visible. With the way that my entire being was vibrating with joy at the news of being sent to Germany at the same time as my secret love…surely this was the pattern being briefly visible.
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. (I found out later that he was ‘tasked’ by our Company 2i/c to meet me and ensure that I got settled in and shown around, oh well.)
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 on a day to day basis. I got that same warm feeling of anticipation. There were so many other units that we could have each been sent to, separately, but here we were side-by-side. Coincidence. The pattern was showing. Again, it was being reinforced that we would be together.
So we began our careers together as young platoon commanders and it was busy – the learning curve was vast and challenging and not without sweat and tears. We attended daily meetings and orders groups. We went to gun-camps and field exercises together. We did physical fitness tests; challenges like rappelling off the jump tower and out of a helicopter; and long marches. We had TGIF gatherings and formal Mess dinners together and soon we started hanging out as friends. We would drive to neighbouring countries, cities, 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 laneways until we found a little bistro – famished from the baths.
At Christmas time, feeling that I had just finally settled in, I thought I may not go home back over the pond. I would just stay and catch up on work and have a quiet time. My apartment phone rang. When I answered it my eldest brother Matt’s unmistakable voice asked my why I wouldn’t be coming home. In his deep, slow drawl he said, ‘Morg, I almost died a few months ago. I’ve just re-learned how to walk. You really need to come home. We’re going to have a big Player Family Christmas party. You can stay with us. Come home, okay?’ So, of course I went home and I enjoyed every minute of the catching up and the hyper-ness of being with all the personalities of my big, wonderful family. I don’t know how I ever thought I was going to get through the holidays without them. Even my bestie, Dean, had gone home to Newfoundland.
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 and about 50 Junior Officers. We nick-named it the Okey-Dokey Challenge. The other female officers and many of the male officers dropped out — mostly due to wicked 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. 75 km is a long way to walk in combat boots.
ime we were spending together though, didn’t turn into romance. Then I found out that my Dean had a girl-friend back home in Newfoundland. Geez. What would I do about that. I was 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, Frank. Dean 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 Frank — a gorgeous, sweet-natured, blue-eyed, muscled helicopter pilot and I was to meet him later at the Mess. Mid-morning, I was in my office when in walks Dean and sits down. He then did something he had never done before. He asked me to go to a soccer banquet with him later that evening. Bristling, I asked him if this was a date. ‘Yes’, he said. I was so mad. I called him an asshole. He looked at me with shock of his face. I asked him if he thought I had nothing going on on a Friday night. I told him about my date with Fraser and that no, I couldn’t go to his silly banquet. I was seething.
Later I was with Frank 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. Frank looked at me and gently but firmly 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, Dean and I walked the cobble-stone street to my apartment, arm-in-arm. We have been together ever since. That was 1990. It is now 2018 and we just celebrated 25 years married while on a trip to Cuba. 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.
rip 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 and not a flat roof in sight.
rip 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!
e met an older couple named Mary and David from Scotland. They made the mistake of inviting us to their home to 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, Inverary 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.
Somewhere in there, my younger brother Luke came to Germany and stayed in my apartment with me for a number of months, sleeping on my roll-away cot. I look back on that time with regret because I feel that I didn’t spend enough quality time with him while he was there. My attentions were focused elsewhere and I was sometimes rather stressed with pressures at work, which came out in tetchiness with him. Luke was able to pick up a serving job and use my bike to get to the Caserne where the cafe was. One nice time we had was to head down to the Bondensee in Switzerland where we had a bit of time together by the water. I was doing my dive licence at that time and needed to conduct a deep dive. Because the visibility at depth was about nil, it was fairly intense and I had to talk to myself the whole time to stay calm. After getting my SCUBA licence, I never dove again. It just wasn’t something that I liked doing, after all. While I was deployed on exercise for several weeks, Luke went home to Canada. I missed him bitterly after he was gone. He had met a very sweet lady who herself was ready to head home and I thought they would be together forever, but, alas, one never knows.
bout 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…<<<<<<<