There are definitely elements of the O. Henry story, “Gift of the Magi” in this, but something triggered a memory the other day. You meet a lot of people during your time with the military and a gentleman that I knew related this to me when we were discussing the various assignments he’d had. It’s important that I digress to explain how assignments in the military work for those who do not have that background. All military personnel, enlisted or officer, are assigned to a specific branch of the service and have a specific Military Occupational Speciality (MOS). That means the type of training they receive such as in Military Personnel, Military Police, Infantry, etc., There are multiple MOSs within a field and an individual can be trained throughout a career in different MOSs. Assignments are based on MOS, location, and the all-encompassing “needs of the service”. In other words, all personnel are given the opportunity to ask for a certain area or installation such as, “the Southeast” or Fort Bragg, North Carolina. If the individual’s request and the service’s need coincide, that’s fine. However, the individual’s request simply doesn’t have priority and virtually everyone has stories of odd assignments to places they had no intention of going to.
Okay, I have set the stage. The gentleman I am talking about had one brother who was also in the Army. By chance of timing, they were coming up on assignment at essentially the same time. I don’t recall if their mother was widowed or divorced, but she was single for many years and lived close to Fort Hood, Texas. The sons had been stationed either overseas or some distance away and as they spoke to each other about their pending assignments, they agreed that asking for Fort Hood would be a really nice surprise for their mother. Since Fort Hood is a very large installation with a lot of units and not necessarily one of the more popular choices, they felt confident that their request would be approved. They were correct, but the military is also notorious for last minute changes and so they waited for a bit to spring the surprise, wanting to make certain that the assignments were locked.
As you might have guessed, she was surprised and touched. She had a surprise for them, too. She had met a wonderful man that she was in love with and was to be remarried before she and her new husband moved to I believe it was Oklahoma. Needless to say, the family conversation was filled with surprises. Notwithstanding the exchanges of “What?!”, that probably occurred, everyone apparently accepted the situation philosophically and at least she and her new husband weren’t going across the country.