As Randy Wallace, the director for the movie, We Were Soldiers, began working on his script, he asked Julie Moore for her perspective on being a military spouse.
Here is her response:
June 25, 1996
Joe and Hal have been after me to write you about my life during the time that Hal was in Vietnam and give you some background material about “my life”. I tried talking into a tape recorder but hate the sound of my voice and feel so stilted, yet when I try to write something I am intimidated by the fact I am surrounded by two best selling book authors and a writer who wrote the best movie of the year: I also try to think of profound things to say but truly Randy it all boiled down to me being a “single mother” of five children, totally responsible for their health and welfare, while being scared to death for the safety of my husband. It seemed that every time I turned on the TV there was Hal describing another fight his unit had been in. Everyday I wondered would I be next to get the telegram.
I had good training for those years though as born an “Army Brat” at Fort Sill, OK. The term “Army Brat” does not fall into the dictionary meaning of a “a nasty child”. Far from it. Used with warmth, it’s special meaning is a child born into an Army family. Army brats the world over, many of whom knew each other while growing up on various Army Posts, are constantly running into each other all their lives. They are, in themselves, a kind of “family” – each member of which knows what it means to have lived their youth in an Army family constantly on the move and in a disciplined Army environment. When I was 18 months Dad (a Field Artillery Captain and WW I veteran) was ordered to the Philippines where we lived for 3 years. Unfortunately I was too young to remember any of it or the trip through China and Japan on the way back to the States but loved to listen to my parents talk about the “old Army”. As the only child of older parents I was brought up to “toe the mark”. Dad never had any patience with me if I cried – always told me that thoroughbreds don’t cry and we Comptons are thoroughbreds. Also that anyone can smile and be happy when all is right with the world but it takes a real thoroughbred to smile when life gets tough. I adored my father so always wanted to be a thoroughbred in his eyes. Mother came from a “prominent” family in a small Kansas town and she was insistent that I learn the social graces, look people in the eye, give a firm handshake and always say “Sir” and “Maam”.
Having had 28 moves in the first 32 years of our marriage sometimes it was tough to keep smiling. Pentagon duty was especially hard as Hal worked long hours, even week-ends and we lived in genteel poverty. I remember one month in the late 60’s when I had to make S4 feed the seven of us for 3 days. We had some very strange meals as I opened whatever cans were on the shelf. Hal Moore taught me to “face up to the facts and deal with them” so I did.
We spent 2 years at Fort Leavenworth, KS while Dad went to the Command and General Staff College, then to Fort Bragg, N.C. for Field Artillery command – then to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD for test work. Dad was sent to the National War College in Washington D.C. for one year then was on General Staff duty in the old “War Dept.” for 2 years when World War II broke out. Now a full Colonel he left for various duty stations in the States but Mother opted to stay in the house we rented in Chevy Chase D.C. rather than disrupt my schooling. He was gone for a total of 4 years with only brief visits home, he was sent overseas to Europe with the 15th Army. Needless to say Mother was never very patient with my whining about my husband being gone for 14 months in the Korean War or in the Vietnam War. I ended up living 11 years in the D. C. area and it was and always has been home to me. Dad came back home for my high school graduation in ’46 and was ordered to Ft. Leavenworth. I insisted that I had never heard of the place and would be “culturally deprived” so they left me at Chevy Chase Junior College for 2 years.
The summer I graduated from Chevy Chase, Dad had an opportunity to go to Fort Bragg to take command of the Army Field Forces Board which tested field equipment for the Army. Mother was all set to move into a huge house at Fort L, Dad only had two and a half more years before he would turn 60 and have to retire so they decided to leave the decision up to me. I knew that Dad wanted this command but would defer to his women. I asked him what was at Fort Bragg and with a twinkle in his eye he replied “The 82nd Airborne Division”. Having just had dinner the night before with a bald headed Lt. Colonel (I was 19 yrs old) I instantly voted to move. Believe me at Leavenworth the men were like that old song “either too young or too old”. As a side note, there were many conferences at Leavenworth and I would be invited to fill out the tables etc and I first met then Lt. Colonel Harry W.O. Kinnard at one of those parties – he was a great dancer.