Family Forum / By Vicki Cody: I am and always will be a champion of all things Army. Army life was a great way of life for me, my husband, and our two sons, and our best times were those spent living on an Army post.
Vicki Cody, second from right, speaks to a group of Army wives at the Fort Riley Spouses Club, March 2017, and afterwards signs copies of her new book, “Army Wife”. / PHOTO BY NANCY TAYLOR
We had the pleasure of living on seven different Army posts, but had never been stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. When our son, his wife, and two young boys moved there last summer and we made our first visit to see them, we had no idea what to expect as we landed in Manhattan, Kansas that hot August day. It seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere! When we drove through the gate, I got that old familiar feeling of excitement I used to get when we moved to a new duty assignment and a new post. Fort Riley, with its buildings and houses that date back to General Custer’s days, has such a historic sense.
As we watched our son take command of an Apache squadron in the tradition of the Cavalry, on horseback with the charge at the end, it was awe inspiring and brought back so many memories of parade fields and ceremonies past. I felt comfort in the timelessness of our Army’s rituals. I also gained a new sense of history and pride for our son’s unit and the 1st Infantry Division. Our son and his wife had barely unpacked their boxes and settled into one of the big stone houses, yet they already had friends and had been welcomed into their new surroundings. It was heartwarming to know that they would experience one of the greatest rewards of Army life; the camaraderie that comes from living together, working together, and serving together in good times and bad. Knowing that they would have their fellow Army families to count on during deployments, training exercises, and the uncertainties of Army life, made this Army mom and former Army wife feel so good!
I had the opportunity to visit Fort Riley again to speak to their Spouses’ club. Looking at the spouses in the audience, I was struck by the fact that almost everyone in the audience had a spouse deployed, preparing to deploy, or just returning, yet you would not know that from their energy and the smiles on their faces. They could have been from any generation doing what Army wives do, gathering together, welcoming each other, giving back to their community, and just enjoying their sisterhood. These amazing spouses represent today’s Army spouse, having endured more deployments than any other generation of Army spouses during an unprecedented time in our Army’s history. I felt so thankful to be among them and to know that they are carrying and passing on the traditions to future generations of Army spouses. In doing so, they are experiencing the best part of Army life.
After these two visits, I realized yet again, that it is a combination of the people, the post, and the surrounding communities that make people feel like they belong. In a time of budget cuts that affect so many of the programs for spouses and children of Soldiers, I was so glad to see that Fort Riley still finds creative ways to support the needs of their families. Annual events like “Apple Days” in the fall, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in nearby Manhattan, celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division, celebrating the month of the military child with weekly events and parades through the housing areas, recognizing spouse volunteers on a regular basis and offering inexpensive things to do with your kids while dad is away help make families feel special.
In the housing areas you hear the laughter and voices of children on the playgrounds from morning till evening, while mothers stand nearby, chatting and whiling away the hours. All these things come together making families feel a part of their community, and it is this sense of knowing that their families are being cared for that allows Soldiers to be able to do what they need to do.
In a world of change, in an Army that is continually transforming and changing to meet the needs of its force, how wonderful that some things remain the same; that there are places like Fort Riley where ceremonies, rituals, and amazing camaraderie among Soldiers and among their families still exist.
Vicki Cody is the author of “Army Wife: A Story of Love and Family in the Heart of the Army,” and the spouse of former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and Master Army Aviator, GEN (Ret.) Richard A. Cody.