Denny’s Better Half

I’m Marilyn. This November Denny and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary! Fifty-two years ago right now Denny had been out of West Point for almost a year and was stationed in Colorado. I was teaching high school girls’ physical education in Ohio. The school wanted me to teach modern dance the next year and since that was not one of my long suits, they sent me to a seminar/workshop in—Colorado. There I first met one Army lieutenant and then a second one; Denny was the second one. I guess we really hit it off as a month later we were engaged—and Denny received orders for Vietnam. We decided to marry when he returned.

He was a rifle platoon leader for the first half of that tour. He told me he would not take any unnecessary chances, but he did come home with four awards for valor and a purple heart, so I’m not sure that he was as careful as I wanted him to be. During the second half of this tour he was an aide to a general—which was also dangerous. He did write to me almost every day.

We were married the day after Thanksgiving in 1966 and left that evening for Philadelphia. The next day we attended the Army-Navy game (MY idea!); Den saw Army win for the first time in his life – Navy won all of the four years he was at West Point). We then spent some time in Washington, DC, and at West Point. We came home, packed our wedding gifts, and drove to Fort Campbell, Ky, where Denny was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He was promoted to Captain and assumed command of an airborne, rifle company.

I had to learn how to be an Army wife. Back in those days it involved wearing hats and white gloves to coffees and volunteering with the Red Cross. We had a wonderful time making new friends and serving in our community. I later took a teaching position at a local school. But this wonderful time wasn’t to last. The division was alerted to deploy to Vietnam — and soon I had to send my new husband off to combat for a second time. He commanded his company through the Tet Offensive of ‘68, and faithfully wrote to me daily. Later he was assigned to the division headquarters. I completed my year of teaching in Kentucky, then moved to Ohio to live near family.

Den came home with three more medals for bravery and another purple heart—but he was home! We began a more normal life; first to Fort Knox, Ky, where he attended the Armor Officer Advanced Course. It was a real treat when my parents visited us there. My college roommate visited, too; we introduced her to one of Denny’s single friends, and it wasn’t long before they were married. Next, Denny was selected for graduate schooling at the University of Texas; I taught at a local high school, and Denny was promoted to major while we were there. Again, we made some great friends and took up skiing. We did enjoy visiting Mexico, too.

Our next stop was Stanford University where Denny served on the faculty of the Army ROTC unit. During our tour there our awesome son was born, and Den earned another masters degree. A West Point classmate of Denny’s invited us to attend a Bible study with an Officers Christian Fellowship group; that was the beginning of a real spiritual awakening for both of us—it changed our lives. We enjoyed being near Denny’s family, particularly when his parent’s first grandchild was born. We next spent about six months in Norfolk, Va, where Den attended the Armed Forces Staff College—another fun time. Then we flew across the Atlantic for three years in Germany.

Germany was amazing. I wasn’t quite sure that Europe was really civilized—but it was. We enjoyed everything about that wonderful place while Den served as the second in command of a mechanized rifle battalion. While he was off on maneuvers, I took a cruise with some other wives and toured Greece. We also took a week-long trip to Israel with some Christian friends; that was beyond amazing.

From there we were transferred to Tampa, Fl. For four years Denny was the Middle East War Planner at US Readiness Command. We bought a home in the civilian community, became involved in a local church, and our son started school. That was the life! When his assignment there was completed he accepted a position heading the Army ROTC unit at the University of Tampa—and we enjoyed living in the sunny Bay area for three more years.

What turned out to be our last stop in our military career was “up north.” Denny was assigned as an Army advisor to the Michigan Army National Guard. Neither of us was excited about moving from Florida to Michigan, but within a year we had fallen in love with West Michigan. After 22 years of military service, Denny retired so we could stay here. We became very involved in the Christian school our son attended. I served as a librarian at the school, then earned a masters degree and became the high school special education teacher, from which I retired a few years ago. For the past decade Denny has taught part-time at the local community college and hosted Frontlines of Freedom, now a nationally syndicated, weekly, military talk radio show. Our son graduated from high school and college and, we are proud to say, now serves as a Sergeant in the local Police Department. We are constantly engaged in things involving our military and veterans, and love our life!

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