August 17, 2013: Real War Games
1990 was a carefree time for us. In our early twenties, we were young and ready to conquer the world. I was fresh out of college and newly married. Robbie and Russ were married with children. But even with the added responsibility, we were still kids at heart; laughing and loving life as young adults.
Robbie was my best friend. It started the first day of college when I recognized handsome Russ from summer orientation. When I enthusiastically went over to say Hi, he introduced me to his girlfriend. What started with a glare turned into a life-long friendship.
Russ and Robbie took a non-traditional road through their college years. They got married, had Russell, and then joined the Army. With a move to Germany, Brynn came next. All while I took the traditional route of graduating and then getting married. Post our college graduation, Scott and I moved to Omaha.
With Russ stationed overseas, Robbie and the kids moved back so Robbie could continue school. Grandma and Grandpa cared for the kids while Robbie stayed with us on weekday nights as we were close to her class location.
Although we were busy with jobs and school by day, we enjoyed being "roomies" and friends by night. It felt like college. We hadn't figured out yet that there were worries in the world. As though we were grown-ups and didn't know it. We counted down the days until Russ would be back, as Robbie and their adorable tots waited at bay.
Then our world changed. January 17, 1991. I was at work and Robbie at school. These were days before the modern communications we enjoy today. We didn't have cell phones or Internet access. We listened to the radio and watched television for world news. We called each other on land lines.
On that cold January day, war broke out. And Russ was in it. My heart sank as the news came over the radio. A crowd at my work piled out to go to a local bar with a big screen. We had hoped to find out more through the national cable news streams.
As I walked into Clancy's, I saw something that took my breath away. CNN was broadcasting live in the heart of the war zone. It took seconds to process that what I was seeing was not a movie or a video game. The sensational explosions were lighting up Kuwaiti skies. We were watching the front line of a war in a bar in Omaha. Operation Desert Storm had begun.
Panic ensued as it became apparent that Russ was there. I painstakingly tried to get a hold of Robbie using our conventional land line phones. My heart fell knowing she was watching the same live footage with her husband in the middle of this very real war. We connected and I picked her up at a Subway.
As I drove to Offut Airforce Base, we held hands without speaking a word. Robbie was scared. She had heard the news of war over the radio on her way home from school. We had hoped the nearby military base would provide answers and would be the best place for accurate news for family of soldiers.
We were greeted by a white haired man who talked to Robbie about specifics on Russ. He then requested Robbie's address in case she needed to be contacted. Time stopped in that moment as the possibility of Russ being killed became a reality. We stayed at the base chapel and held hands with other war wives as we were led in prayer.
It was over 3 weeks until Robbie heard from Russ. Each day she watched the war live on CNN. Each day she waited for the day to end without a knock on the door from the white-haired main from the air force base. She found out later that Russ' job was to fly supplies to the front line and drop from a helicopter. He was right in the middle the real war game we watched on TV.
Years have passed for Robbie and I since those scary months in 1991. In the same apartment where I held Robbie's hand and prayed for her husband's safe arrival home, Robbie rubbed my back while I sobbed through the night following a miscarriage. No words were spoken. There was nothing to say. I just cried and it was Robbie's turn to be there for me. Over the next twenty years, we have endured many more pains and joys together; side by side.
People often ask about Robbie and my relationship. As we pal around together, we are mistaken for sisters and have the same last name. Our common answer is "it's complicated". Best friends, sisters, sister-in-laws, partners in crime...all of the above. Yes, it's complicated, but not really. I'm just really lucky.