As a full-time federal employee, wife, mother, and daughter, I had enough going on in my life in 2011 when, somewhat spontaneously, I came up with an idea to start a museum dedicated to military families. At that time, my son was deployed to Iraq and I’d joined the ranks of generations upon generations of military families who had a loved one in harm’s way. It was a complicated time with complicated emotions, and my way to deal with them resulted in conceptualizing a museum.
As an Army wife and mother, an overseas “brat,” and a federal employee, my whole life has been influenced by the military. I was born on Evreux Air Base in France and attended kindergarten through high school and my first two years of college in Germany.
While in college, I met my husband who was living with his parents who were attached to the embassy in Bonn. We married twice—once, in a civil ceremony in Karlsruhe, Germany, and afterwards, in a church service in Wissembourg, France. Later, my husband joined the Army, and he and I were stationed on seven posts and bases in the states and overseas before we settled in the Albuquerque area. All in all, we moved 18 times in 20 years.
In 2007, our oldest son went to boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where he had lived in the second and third grades. He got stationed at Ft Riley, Kansas, where my father had been stationed in the 1950s. In 2011, our youngest son declared that now that he had graduated college, he’d never move again. Since then, he has moved four times.
“Rootlessness” is one aspect of military family life that gives us our cultural identity and common bonds. It is what drives us to find others like ourselves—to find our “people.”
When I asked a veteran why it’s so important to him to seek out people who have had similar experiences as his, he said, “It’s a brotherhood; it’s a sisterhood… It is easier to talk to people who have been through the same things we have. They ‘get’ us.”
The museum examines all aspects of military life and presents compelling exhibits to encourage dialogue between military and non-military audiences, and I hope that this column will too.
“Charlie Oscar Whiskey: Thoughts from the Homefront” will cover a variety of subjects—mostly military family-related, but it will also cover museum events, interviews with local veterans and military family members, New Mexico history, and topics of interest suggested by you, the readers. I will peruse our archives to share first-hand stories from earlier generations, dig through our exhibits to highlight treasured artifacts, and will share some of our favorite books in our special collections library.
Dr. Circe Olson Woessner is the Executive Director of the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center. The museum is located right next to Molly’s Bar in Tijeras.