During our training at CFB Borden, Ontario in logistics and field army tactics called Environmental Specialty Land, almost all of my ninety or so classmates were officially asking for a posting to Germany following successful completion of their training. Germany was considered one of the best postings for a young officer. Living in Europe had its pluses: travel, good food, amazing souvenirs, clocks, chocolate, schnapps and furniture, it also came with an overseas allowance, separation allowance, if applicable and, it was more prestigious – there was even a medal out of it: the NATO Service Medal.
This seems unbelievable now, but, unlike almost all of my colleagues, I did not ask for a posting to Germany. When interviewed, I told my career manager to send me anywhere. I am 22 with no strings and I have no wishes in particular. In my head, it would be a new adventure wherever I was sent. I was excited to really start my career and, it was a big wide world out there. Location wasn’t a big worry to me (although I would be sad to be sent away from Dean but, knew that that was inevitable).
I’ll never forget the day of the decisions for our postings. I kept seeing classmates exit the interview office with red-rimmed eyes, like they had been crying. Others were quiet and sullen. Others were frantically calling their spouses from the pay phones (there were no cell phones in 1989) and arguing loudly or discussing quietly. Finally, it was my turn to go in. I had no idea that what she was about to say to me would shape my future: bring me my true love, a wonderful son and the happy, contented life I now enjoy.
My career manager remarked about my comments about send me anywhere. ‘Hmm,’ she said, ‘you’re doing well on your training. I like your attitude. How about Germany? Would you like to go to Germany?’ My answer was simple: ‘Sure’, I said with a shoulder shrug. I was truly feeling like this was just another one of my adventures in life. I was feeling fortunate but trepidatious. It dawned on me that I shouldn’t walk out of that office and announce it to my classmates. I put a button on it and walked out looking down, like everyone else.
Then began the screening process for Germany. There were a few steps. The Canadian Forces wanted to ensure that healthy soldiers were sent overseas. Mine was easy. Good health. Good teeth. No family. No spouse. My no-strings life was likely the reason I was to be sent there. Much cheaper for them. I was still very much secretly in love with my Newfoundlander classmate, Dean, the first person I met on training in Borden, Ontario but it was one-sided. Me toward him, not both ways – not even close. In fact, I walked around like a love-sick calf and could barely speak whenever he was about. It was crazy. I had never before been so affected by a prospective date.
So, I kept it on the low-down about my posting to Germany. So many others had so wanted to go there, I thought they would hate me if they found out I got it. Our training continued and I said nothing. One day, that I will never forget as long as I live, I was sitting in the common room of our barracks spit-polishing my boots. There were a few classmates in there too, chit-chatting. Walter says to Randy: ‘did you hear that Dean is going to Germany?’
My head came up.
I dropped my boot.
Oh my god.
It was meant to be.
It would only be a matter of time before we would be together. I knew this in my soul. This was another one of those pivotal times in my life when it seemed that the fates took over and steered my life in a certain direction. I was just going with it. I have since come across something in a novel by Anthony Horowitz...it is the belief that there are no coincidences but that rather, everything in life has a pattern and that a coincidence is simply the moment that the pattern becomes briefly visible. With the way that my entire being was vibrating with joy at the news of being sent to Germany at the same time as my secret love…surely this was the pattern being briefly visible.
A few months later, I arrived in Germany and moved into my barrack room. It was a short walk to the Black Forest Officer’s Mess – one of the most beautiful messes in the Canadian Forces due to its German architecture, interior design and beautiful surroundings – forest and lush grounds. Canadian Forces Officers were treated well. I was in the common room, meeting up with some of the other folks who were in the same barracks. Hearing the tapping of cleats on the floor, I looked up and saw Dean walking toward me…
Be still my heart.
He was in his soccer gear and covered head to toe and long strong, muscled legs, in mud. He was so athletic, fit, boyish, gorgeous and delicious looking. I was tongue tied. With stars dancing in my eyes, I asked him what he was doing there. He told me he had heard I was arriving today and he thought he would come and meet me. Yikes. I was so in love. I was shocked that he was there for me. I remember feeling quite surprised but pleased that he was there…for me. (I found out later that he was ‘tasked’ by our Company 2i/c to meet me and ensure that I got settled in and shown around, oh well.)
The next day Dean picked me up and we went to meet our new Commanding Officer. I was given ‘A’ platoon in Supply and Transportation Company of 4 Service Battalion. Dean had Supply Platoon, same company. So, we would be working closely together on a day to day basis. I got that same warm feeling of anticipation. There were so many other units that we could have each been sent to, separately, but here we were side-by-side. Coincidence. The pattern was showing.
Again, it was being reinforced that we would be together.