When people think of the sacrifices made by the men and women in our armed forces, they tend to think in terms of deployment, combat and the strong likelihood of getting one’s arse shot off.
But there’s another forfeit that goes unnoticed — home ownership. While the military defends the nation’s homes and hearths, the citizens in uniform often must put their own American dreams on hold.
I don’t recall knowing any homeowners as a kid. We lived in Maryland, Virginia, Canada and Texas when I was a punk, and the old man either rented or arranged for quarters on base.
Sure, it’s possible to own a home while in the service, and we didn’t move around nearly as much as some folks did, but renting is still easier, even for officers. If you suddenly find yourself transferred from Ottawa to, say, Randolph AFB outside San Antonio, well, you have a house to sell. And in another country, too.
This shit rolls downhill to the dependents. When we lived in Ottawa I wanted a tree house. Nope, said the old man. That’s not our tree.
Between rental houses we got to experience the joys of Visiting Officers Quarters (VOQ), which were the early prototypes for what would become the Motel 6 chain. At least one unhappy customer said in 2008 that it was an open question whether the VOQ at Fort Drum were “preferable to field conditions.” I recall a few that were more KOA than VOQ, for sure.
But all things come to he who waits, and in 1967, when we were transferred from Randolph to Bibleburg, Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady finally got to buy his house (after 25 years of service and one final, astoundingly long run of stays in VOQ, BOQ and actual shitbox motels on Knob Hill, which was seedy even then).
He got to enjoy it for all of 13 years, and after that he took up permanent quarters at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
So here’s to all the troops waiting patiently for their slice of American pie. Try to save ’em some.