Household Baggage Handlers

Household Baggage Handlers

In this deeply personal collection of stories, 48 wives share their total embarrassments, tragic experiences, and tender emotions as they tackle the daily dramas of military life.  By turns touching and hilarious, Household Baggage Handlers opens the door on an often overlooked world, one requiring the survival skills to:

  • Move overseas while six months pregnant
  • Manage labor, delivery, and a newborn … without a spouse
  • Nurse a critically injured husband back to health
  • Confront the sight of someone in uniform at the front door
  • Shelter five children alone during a tornado
  • Cope with bats, blizzards, and broken cars during deployments

Read all about it in their own words. With anecdotes from WWII to the present, these compelling stories capture a sisterhood forged by extraordinary circumstances.

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Excerpts From Household Baggage Handlers: 56 Stories From the Hearts and Lives of Military Wives (Wyatt-MacKenzie, June 08).

I love moving. Fitting our furniture into a new space is just like solving a life-size, 3D jigsaw puzzle. Husband gets points for moving the sleeper sofa four times until I find exactly the right spot. Kids get points for tossing out all those broken toys and playing with the ones they have unpacked as if it is Christmas morning. I get points for finding the perfect lace curtains on sale at Wal-Mart. It’s sort of like playing dollhouse on a really huge scale. Even our old stuff looks a little like new after it’s rearranged. I love moving.

“Moving Schizophrenia” by Susanna Hickman Bartee

Since we were blessed to live in a flat above the best bakery in Naples, we woke up to the most amazing aromas and spoiled ourselves daily with freshly baked bread. I decided to show my appreciation to the packers in the way I do best: with a feast. The kitchen table was still accessible, so I filled it with fresh mozzarella di bufola, proscuitto crudo, ripe melone and warm rolls. Carefully placing the bottle of extra virgin olive oil we purchased from Tuscany among the platters, I offered communion to the men. We broke bread and forged a relationship where we were no longer strangers. Mimo spoke not a word of English, but he offered me his homemade sausage and spicy friarelli as a token of gratitude.

“Strangers Packing My Underwear Drawer” by Suzie Trotter

Gate Five at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport will always be one of my favorite places. On the morning of July 13, 2005, my newborn son and I made our way through the security checkpoint after obtaining our special pass. We decorated the stroller with “Welcome Home” signs, made sure the camera was ready and anxiously awaited the next incoming flight. My husband Jeremy was on that flight returning to Fort Stewart for his two weeks of mid-tour leave during Operation Iraqi Freedom III as part of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. It would be the first time he’d see his newborn son in person.

“Special Delivery at Gate Five” by Mary Beth Smith

As I watched my new husband walk up the ramp of a C-130, it seemed to swallow him. The plane ascended into the blue summer sky and I felt like my heart had been ripped out. There was actual physical pain. Exactly two weeks after our wedding, he was on his way to Vietnam.

“Letters from Vietnam” by Judy Hunt Rudolph

In December 1969 my husband Larry was shot down in Cambodia and suffered a life-threatening head injury. Once the doctors stabilized him, he was taken to a military hospital in Tachikawa, Japan. I left for Japan two days later.

“Many Good Men” by Nancy Denton

We headed off on the 16-hour trip to Georgia—a car and a truck pulling a U-Haul trailer. We stopped in Alabama at an Arby’s to have lunch. Since Oscar had been riding in his cat cage the entire way we decided it would be nice to let him out in the back of the Durango. We left the windows barely—and I do mean barely—cracked for air. Upon returning to the vehicle, I opened the door. I looked around. No cat. I started to freak out. No cat? How could there be no cat? We combed that truck from one end to the other. We spent the next hour driving around the parking lots of adjacent restaurants calling for him. Kevin finally said we had to go. “You never leave a Soldier behind,” I told him, crying as we drove away.

“He’s Thinking Arby’s” by Tara Crooks

While I don’t always recognize how extraordinary our circumstances are, I’m fortunate to have people in my life who remind me. My friend pointed out that in the previous three months, my daughter had to deal with an international move, a new house and neighborhood, new daycare, and then Daddy deployed for a year. Oh, yeah. I guess I had my head down, putting one foot in front of the other, thinking everything was normal in my world.

“My Kind of Normal” by Sonya Mooneyham

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