Washington, DC – 1982 to 1986
Our first Adventure was Peggy’s assignment to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC, as a research bio-chemist.
After picking Peggy up from basic training at Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri, we beat cheeks south to avoid a winter storm heading down from Canada and Points North. We caught I-10 East and then I-95 North, with winter weather everywhere. We had a trusty ’74 VW bug and pulled a small U-Haul. Everything we owned was in that U-Haul.
We arrived in DC on January 13, 1982 – the day the Air Florida jet crashed into the 14th street bridge – and checked into guest quarters at Walter Reed, Peggy’s new duty station. Peggy started in processing, while Robert began looking for both a job and a place to stay. Luckily, he found both.
Our first place was a funky old apartment in Riverdale. It was rather small with steam heat, but we didn’t have much, so the size didn’t matter. We slept on air mattresses in an empty room, so a bed was the first priority. We started accumulating stuff, like beds, chairs, tables, desks, computers, etc. At the end of the six month lease, we were ready to move to a larger place.
Peggy jumped into work. Her position is (was) one of the few positions that required a four-years college degree for an enlisted position. She became a published research assistant in a biology lab. She was Soldier of the Year for the Medical Corp and rose in rank quickly. She went to Airborne School and eared her paratrooper badge and she earned the Air Assault badge by repelling out of helicopters. She also earned a slot at Officer’s Candidate School.
While Peggy was hard at work, Robert got a job as a computer programmer in the Washington Navy Yard. During his interview, Robert declared his desired salary to be $12,000/year having no idea what the going rate for programmers was. The interviewer left, came back and ask why Robert had priced himself so low? After an explanation, the interviewer crossed out Robert’s entry and changed it to $17,000, their starting salary. Damn! thought Robert, a $5,000 raise and I haven’t even started yet!
Over the next four years, we did a lot of things and played a lot of golf with interesting people like Admiral Clyde Lusk – the Coast Guard fall guy in the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The first time we met Clyde and Bev, his wife and golf partner extraordinaire, he introduced himself without rank and we played a couple of times with never any mention of rank. (For the most part, rank disappears on golf courses since golf is the great equalizer.) Six months later, Robert was checking in with the starter and Clyde was in front. As he walked up, the starter said: “Good morning, Admiral!” And Robert’s jaw dropped. It is unfortunate that a few years later, Admiral Lusk was thrown under the bus over Exxon Valdez, as if he had any control over what the idiot on that ship did.
We also got to meet Joe Jacoby when he was playing for the Redskins. Fred King was the course pro and one afternoon we were sitting on stools at the bar when Fred walked up with Joe in toe and said: “Peggy, Robert, I’d like you to meet Joe Jackoby.” Peggy swung around and slid off the stool and came nose to belt buckle. (Ok, she’s taller than that, but it sounds good and the disparity in height IS that great.) His hand engulfed hers when they shook. Robert’s, too. He is THAT big. We chatted for a minute and Fred took Joe around to other guests. Seemed like a nice guy in the brief time we met him.
Because we were making good money, Robert decided he would like to go back to school, sort of, and earn a Private Pilot’s license. He joined the Aero Club (now gone) at Andrews AFB and became current on Cessna 150’s, 152’s and 172’s. And when his parents came to visit, he was able to take his father (a former P-51 pilot) on a flight to the Maryland coast. And he even managed to get Peggy, who has an immense dislike for heights, to fly up Blue Ridge!
We attended concerts with our favorite: the King Crimson concert at Merriweather Post. We saw the Firm with Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page, Lionel Hampton and several more jazz acts, and others as well.
Most of all, we spent hours touring the various museums and government buildings.
We had a ball in DC and did go a few places.
Peggy won the competition for Soldier of the Year in the Health Services command, the third largest command in the Army. As a reward, she was offered a $2,000 cash prize or a seven day stay at the Hale Koa hotel and two round trip airline tickets to Hawaii. Money? Money? Don’t need no stinkin’ money, so we boarded a plane and off we went!
We also visited Blackwater National Reserve and the Longwood Gardens…
Blackwater National Reserve
Officer’s Candidate School
Then in 1985, Peggy went to Officer’s Candidate School at Ft. Benning, GA. She was sworn in by her Father-in-Law, Lt. Col. Robert M Cox, USAF (Ret.). What a treat to have Robert’s mother, JoAnna, father AND her father, John Stermer, a WWII veteran as well and her sister, Dorothy, accompanied their father. It was a real treat they were able to attend!
Afterwards, it was back to DC, pack up and head to Anniston, Alabama for a training school. From training school, we had hoped to be stationed in Germany, but when the orders came it wasn’t even close: Alaska.