Dear Fort Benning,
You will forever be a bookend on our time as an Army family, as this chapter of our lives started with you. You first met my husband in the Atlanta airport where you welcomed him with open arms and a few drill sergeants. Over the course of 18 months and five graduations, you provided the instructors, mentors and peers who have helped shape him personally and professionally. Basic training, OCS, IBOLC, Ranger and Airborne – I know my husband is ready for what is next – and I am ready for a graduation party break.
You know as well as we do that this journey is not just about the service member – it’s about the whole family and the experiences we share in each community. When our own family was hundreds of miles away, you taught us to fill the gaps with family who aren’t necessarily blood. The Army family we built during our time here will be one that is hardest to leave.
Thank you for bringing us our first, and dearest, Army friends – our home away from home. Our Fort Benning friends are the ones we shared both professional and personal milestones with. We showed off our first home as husband and wife, celebrated all the graduations when our families couldn’t make it, and laughed telling stories in the backyard while cursing at how loud the cicadas were. This Army family is what kept me sane when I hadn’t heard from my husband for weeks or months on end. When we found out we were pregnant with our first baby, these friends were the first to know. Fort Benning, you brought these incredible people into our life, and for that I am thankful.
During our time here, we explored everything that Columbus and southwest Georgia have to offer. It is where we learned the true definition of southern hospitality, and that both humidity and cockroaches can be measured in the hundreds. It is where my husband and I spent much time apart but learned just how much sweeter the time away makes the reunions.
I cannot say I will miss your summers, the bugs, or the lack of delivery options on post. But I will miss your sunsets over the jump towers, the guessing game of “what graduation was today” as the streets of downtown Columbus bustled with proud families, and I’ll even miss the Saturday 12 p.m. tornado drills. I will miss the strolls on the river walk and the weekend morning farmer’s markets. Although we were only here for a short while, you became our first home.
We will move on to our next duty station excited, a little bit nervous, and incredibly hopeful. Our next assignment has a lot to live up to. Depending on what the Army gods have in store for us, we’ll see you for Captain’s Career Course in a few years. Until then, be just as good to the new students as you have been to us. Cheers, Benning!