MS, my new Marine Corps husband, and I moved down to Jacksonville, NC, shortly after the wedding in September, 1977. I was due to have our first child in March 1978. Our first “home” was a 10 x 50 mobile home in a small mobile home park not far from Camp Lejeune’s Main Gate. The entire park, White’s Trailer Park, housed about 10 mobile homes of varying sizes. Ours was the only one available at the time in our price range ~ cheap. We joked about how we could sit in the livingroom and our feet would be in the kitchen. But, hey, it was ours and we were in love. My first Christmas away from home was spent without a Christmas tree, and I was extremely homesick and lonely. MS introduced me to some of his friends and their wives, and I quickly learned “the ways” of the military and their spouses. First up, washing and ironing Marine “utilities” ~ their uniforms; blocking and baking caps, and spit shining boots and shoes (oh yes I did!).
Our gorgeous first-born daughter, Kristen, was born in March 1978 and now, at age 18, I learned to become not only a military wife, but a new mother. However, things began to change over that summer and my newlywed husband seemed to wander places, not only without me, but places that I was not familiar with… taverns on the “other side of the base”. Fights ensued, and at one point, with the intention of helping MS move out of our newlywed home, I threw everything that belonged to him into the sandy front yard ~ everything. It didn’t take long for other violence to come into play, and become so serious that one night my beloved threw me out of our house while pointing the barrel of a rifle at me. I had no choice but to leave and leave my 6 month old daughter behind… for the time being. Not having a vehicle, I walked to the nearest public telephone and called my father crying. He was to leave New York the next day to come and get me with his pickup truck. I began the walk back to our trailer, but not before calling my old boyfriend, ST (at SUNY Oswego) and crying the blues to him as well. ST was sympathetic and attentive (as usual). We would make arrangements to see each other when I got to New York. On the walk home, I knew I would have to calm things for the night, and I began to plan my exit strategy as I walked. I would apologize, make up with MS, then take him to work in the morning on the pretense of needing the car for the day to run errands etc. Then I would return to our trailer after dropping him off on base, pack the car with everything I could and more, leaving room for the baby, and head for Goldsboro, where I would meet my father at a relative’s house. One possible glitch… well, our car was a 1977 Mustang… very small!
Not to be dissuaded, I made my plans come to fruition, and the next day I was in Goldsboro and by dinner my new husband was wondering where his ride home was. It didn’t take him long to track me down and hitch-hike to Goldsboro that night to try to convince me to come back. Dad and I drove back to Jacksonville the next day, to pick up all of my and Kristen’s other belongings that would fit into the truck. I took our daughter and moved home, leaving him the Mustang (and the car payments). It did not take me long to reconnect with ST and plan on getting a divorce. ST even asked me to marry him, once divorced. However, I remembered how things had been in high school, and I eventually changed my mind and returned to my husband. The summer of 1979 was spent family intact back at White’s Trailer Park in Jacksonville. And before long I was announcing that we would be adding to our little family in March of 1980… right about the same time that MS announced he would be shipped to Japan for a 12-month stint overseas. THEY CAN’T DO THAT! Can they? They did, he went, and I moved back home yet again for the duration.
In March, 1980, Karalyn was born in Syracuse, NY. MS arrived home on leave about a week before I went into labor, so he would’ve been there for the delivery, if he hadn’t bailed on me. So my Mom (who had taken Lamaze childbirth classes with me) arrived just in time to see her granddaughter born and be the first to hold her. After a few days of being on leave with his family, my husband had to return to Japan to finish his tour of duty… but I was optimistic as his leave would end that late summer and he would be at his new stateside duty station before Christmas, and we would join him there. At the time, he believed he would be re-stationed in Virginia, and indeed he was. We were in frequent telephone contact, and each time I asked him how things were coming with getting housing for us, and each time I was assured it was in the works. As the weeks, then months dragged and we were still in Plainville while he was in Virginia, I became impatient. Finally the news came that he had secured housing for us and that we would be moving by Christmas! Could it be that I was finally going to have my white picket fence?
In the beginning of December, MS called me, and I was excited about the anticipated news of our move to be a family again. However, this time was very different. And I still remember the conversation: he told me that I would not be moving to Virginia, and that I should find an attorney and get a divorce from him. He’d found housing, and he had another woman living there with him. Then he hung up the phone. I did not hear from him again for months. And, although he was getting additional funds from the military for having a wife and two children, he did not make any effort to support us while we continued to live with my parents. But I did as he said, and borrowed the money from my parents to hire an attorney and move on with my life with my daughters as best as we could. My attorney also made efforts to try to get MS to send us money for the support of his children, but my husband eventually went AWOL from the Marines and “disappeared”. In fact, his superiors contacted me and accused me of harboring him and I was threatened with legalities. After much going back and forth with Virginia, I was granted my divorce in late 1981 and was free to move on as a single mom supported by public assistance with no plan for the future.
Being “wronged” as I felt I had been by MS, I was determined to find a way to get at least some funding from him ~ after all, he was getting half of those funds for being married to me and having two children with me, and he was not supporting us voluntarily. I knew tax season was coming up, and that MS would be filing his return as everyone else, and that he potentially would get $1000-$3000 refunded thanks to his married w/children status in 1980. After doing some research and making some phone calls, I sent a change of address form to his post office in Virginia, forwarding all of his mail to me at my Plainville address. I was in touch with his post office daily checking to see and make sure that the refund check was sent to me rather than left there for him. Eventually, I did receive it, and yes, I cashed it and purchased much-needed items for his children and his wife (this was before our divorce was final). Several weeks later, he called me wondering if I had somehow gotten his refund check. Needless to say he was pretty furious when he found out what I’d done… but he was still AWOL from the Marines and unable to do much about it without getting himself into trouble as well.
That summer I was 21 years old, divorced single mother of two little girls (ages 3 and 1). I enrolled into Central City Business Institute for night classes, moved my little family in to Syracuse and started my life essentially over once again. It seemed awhile before I would be able to find that elusive white picket fence I’d wanted since graduation. I had not given up hope.