Whether their husbands are going off to war or heading for other uncertain destinations, military wives of yesterday and today share the same angst waiting for their loved one to come home.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Carolyn Baldwin simply didn’t think about it. That was her mindset, to not feel sorry for herself or wrap her mind around the potential danger of what was happening thousands of miles away.
It was the late 1960s, and her husband Mike was in Vietnam, serving the U.S. Army in infantry operations. He hadn’t gone up to Canada, Carolyn noted, but she knew others who did back then to avoid the draft.
“He felt it was his responsibility to what his government needed him to do,” she said. “I was proud of him for that even though he was going away.”
They had been married five years before he left, so they certainly had their time together. In fact, their story started years before as preteens. Carolyn was 12 when she met Mike, a year older than she. They started dating when she was in ninth grade, kept the romance going through high school and married after graduation.
Carolyn hoped their romance that blossomed during childhood would continue with a full lifetime of happiness after the war.
As many in La Crescenta know, Mike did come home and it’s been bliss ever since. The couple, both Glendale natives, raised two boys and Mike has been active for decades with the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in the foothills.
“We’re best friends. That’s the way we started out and we’re still best friends,” Carolyn said.
Maybe Stephen Beck will follow in Mike’s footsteps someday as an ambassador of sorts for veterans. For now, though, Stephen serves his country across the world as a computer technician for the U.S. Air Force.
This puts a strain on the emotions of his wife Aimee, 21, which seems natural. Like the Baldwins years ago, the Becks married young, and Aimee said the hardest part of Stephen’s service is the uncertainty of it all.
“I like to plan out my life and know all of the facts beforehand, but the military is not the same way,” said Aimee, who graduated Crescenta Valley High School in 2012 (Stephen graduated CV a year earlier). “For anything from deployments to moves, you won’t have all of the details until everything is over. It makes it extremely frustrating to not know what is happening.”
At least communication is easier these days. When Mike was in Vietnam, he and Carolyn wrote letters every day. Mike used a video camera to tape Bob Hope’s USO Tour appearance and sent it off to his wife.
“He took video of Raquel Welch (with Hope). I remember getting that and thinking, well, what else?” Carolyn said.
On the home front, Carolyn joined a club for army wives. They went to the beach and held potluck dinners.
“We kept each other company and had things in common, which helped,” she said.
While Carolyn can look back on what she did and how she felt, Aimee is currently experiencing all of this, and maybe that’s why she isn’t endorsing this lifestyle 100%.
“You never know when you or he will have to up and go with little or no notice. They are married to the service first and foremost, in the service’s eyes,” she said.
But when Stephen returns – he was recently gone for six months – Aimee is fulfilled. She said it makes the struggle worth it.
“Being married to Stephen, though, is more than I ever could have hoped for. He puts me before all else, and completes me,” she said. “No matter what happens, I know he has my back and will help me through.”
And don’t suggest to Aimee she married too young.
“Everyone is not the same. Just because you did not feel ready to marry at a young age does not mean that we are the same,” she reiterated. “A key is communication, and really talking through situations before they arise.”
The Becks had their first wedding anniversary together last week. Stephen came home, and the two flew to Oregon to visit Stephen’s parents. For Valentine’s Day, it will be a casual affair. Aimee said they’ll go to the new Town Kitchen and Grill restaurant, located in the Montrose Shopping Park.
Carolyn and Mike will also celebrate this week, but for a different occasion. Like every year, her birthday is Friday, Feb. 13.
Carolyn said Mike is a giving person who puts himself before others. When you’re with someone like that, there’s no struggle, and there’s no need to make a big show for one day.
“Every day is a celebration. I’m not real big on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “It’s more what you do all year.”