Last week I interviewed two widows in nursing homes, one of which stories I presented last Saturday and the second of which is this one. The woman in this story requested anonymity.

Last week I interviewed two widows in nursing homes, one of which stories I presented last Saturday and the second of which is this one. The woman in this story requested anonymity.


The island of Cuba lies only ninety miles off the Florida Keys and has been under the hegemony of the U.S. since the Spanish-American War1898. However, the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 extended American protection to all countries south of us from intervention by all other countries. In 1952 ‘colonel’ Fulgencio Batista carried out a military coup. He presided over transfer of land to wealthy plantation owners and for weekly bribes let the America mafia to control gambling, drugs, and prostitution.

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara led a rebellion ending Dec.31, 1958 expelling the mafia and Batista. In 1959 a hostile U.S. foreign policy drove Cuba into the arms of the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance. Mercenaries organized and funded by our CIA invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs April 17-20, 1961. Local militia led by Castro routed the invaders in three days.

In 1962 photographs from U-2 overflights proved the USSR had installed several ballistic missile sites in Cuba triggering our blockading the island beginning October 22. Soviet ships even then were in mid-Atlantic headed for Cuba carrying more missiles. At the time, we had missile bases ringing the USSR. For 13 days [Oct. 16-28] the world waited anxiously for the American and Soviet fleets to meet in what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis—the closest the Cold War came to escalating into nuclear war.

As they say, Krushchev ‘blinked first,’ and turned his ships around. Secretly, Krushchev did so because Kennedy had agreed to close several U.S. missile sites ringing the Soviet Union. The sudden, serious existential threat had, however, began a process of federalizing numerous reserve and national guard units nationwide sending thousands of civilian soldiers to training bases long mothballed and unprepared for them. It interrupted the lives of many young families.

Fred and Anna

One such couple impacted was Fred and Anna from southeastern Oklahoma. They met in 1957 when her girlfriend talked her into driving down Main Street one night after church hoping to meet her friend’s boy friend, and Fred was with the friend. When the two cars met the couples stopped and paired off to visit. The evening ended with Fred and Anna agreeing to meet again. They married in 1961 after Anna was graduated from high school and Fred from college.

The newlyweds moved to OKC where Fred was placed in a bank officer training program of the FNB. .Then, the Cuban Missile Crisis mobilized Fred’s Military Policy [MP] unit—sending the young family to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The base was not yet fully reopened so families had no base housing. By then Anna had a baby boy and, because they had only one car, Anna was homebound and on foot. Overrun by other couples seeking civilian housing, Anna scoured the city by taxi searching for a rental apartment.

Fr0065d had their car on base while Anna struggled without money or car to care for their child, Jimmy. With no money, no family allowance check and in need of both a civilian physician and in immediate, desperate need of medicine for their son Jimmy, Anna scoured the town by taxi. In desperation she threw herself on the mercy of a friendly pharmacist, telling him, “I promise you, as soon as my husband gets paid, I’ll come and pay you first.” She did. The pharmacist, realizing she was as good as her word, extended her credit the remainder of their tour of duty there.

They had no money after all the bills were paid. While visiting the couple, Anna’s mother opened their kitchen pantry finding nothing in it but a box of crackers and a jar or peanut butter. Horrified, Mom dragged Anna against her will to a grocery store and bought her a $20 ‘bill of groceries.’ A girl friend upon hearing Anna couldn’t afford makeup, paid for a visit to a beauty parlor. The wives pooled their money to provide a group dinner at Thanksgiving. [Upon Fred’s death, Anna sent out notes to each of those friends every one of whom responded.]

Fred returned to FNB but not to his position in the bank officer training group. He was re-employed as only an entry-level teller. This soon led him to better career fields respecting his educational preparation and occupational interests and gifts.

We are familiar with the lingering effect on soldiers from combat, but little has been reported about their wives suffering also. Anna was also mentally wounded by the experience. She told me, “It made me realize I never wanted to have that experience again—if I have anything to do with it. I’m not going to let this happened again. It may have made Fred and me work a little harder.”

It reminded me of a famous fictional character’s comment after sheanother women on the home front who had suffered through the Civil War. “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again:” [Scarlet O’Hara, ‘Gone With the Wind.’]

Like a rock dropped in a pond, it roils placid waters at ever-expanding distances from the point of its impact.