An Army family’s house

September 9, 2008 

I’ve noticed since I retired that my house isn’t decorated like most people’s houses.

I guess I always knew that, even when on active duty. But back then, most of the houses I visited belonged to other people in the Army. They decorated like we did.

When my sister-in-law would visit, she had remarks about how all of our artwork was about battles. I generally ignored her. Why should I worry about my sister-in-law?

I see the differences now. My house (actually the house my wife and I own and she now decorates — mostly) is filled with military things. Our knickknacks are from places where we lived around the world: • A ring of keys from Germany sits on the mantle. • An Iraqi howitzer data plate sits in a bookcase; the rest of the howitzer didn’t make it. • A wooden shovel and a brass gong from Korea sit next to a sled picked up from a trash pile in Germany. • A Star Trek cast member photograph sent to me by a former subordinate when he was in Bosnia sits on a shelf in my home office. • A small cannon from the Czech Republic defends the front door. • A couple of Chinese lunch buckets sit around the house. • We keep Polish pottery in a wooden kitchen cabinet I bought for $12 in Germany. • A Coca-Cola bottle from Korea is one of a number of odds and ends in the kitchen. • A photograph of my Uncle Jesse who died in World War I sits on one bookcase. Our taste in art work also is a bit different from our civilian friends. Prints of battles from the Civil War to the Korean War decorate our walls; maps my Dad drew from aerial photographs in World War II decorate the hall. My office walls are covered in “I love me” certificates and plaques — and even one cartoon of me. Two sets of ID tags hang off plaques in the kitchen.

A P-38 can opener is on one of those chains. We have a quilted flag my wife made with stars for friends deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in one room. Small prints of a door, a shepherd, and an old woman from Germany hang in the dining room. I guess the kindest way to describe this conglomeration is to say that it is eclectic. I think that means there is little rhyme or reason to the arrangement of the entire collection.

Nonetheless, it means plenty to us, even if no one else sees much value in it. Other than using it for firewood, the wooden shovel isn’t good for much else.

The gong is useful for alerting children to the need to do something, but they never seem to understand the humor and uniqueness of my beating of a brass gong with a wooden mallet.

At least I did manage to get rid of the plastic water bucket with a hole in the bottom that my better half scrounged from a German junk pile one night. She’s quite a scavenger! I suppose we’ll keep this stuff whether anyone else understands it or not. __________________________

John M. House is a retired Army colonel who lives in Midland, Ga. His e-mail is housearmylife@aol.com

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