When I signed up for the War Through the Generations challenge focusing on the Vietnam War I knew that I already owned several books that would qualify for the challenge. One book, Waiting Wives by Donna Moreau, I picked up a few years ago and came across when I was looking for a new book to read while I was running on the treadmill. Donna Moreau grew up during the Vietnam War and spent part of her childhood on Schilling Manor, an army base in Salina, KS, that had been closed for a brief time, and then re-opened as a home to military wives waiting for their husbands' return from the Vietnam War. Schilling Manor is the only such base to have existed and the women and children who lived there had a unique perspective on history.
In this book Moreau features the lives of three waiting wives: Lorrayne, who was responsible for organizing the wives of Schilling Manor and was one of the first wives to take up residence there; Bonnie, the wife of Bruce, a soldier missing in action, and mother to three children; and Beverly, Donna's own mother. Other women and their stories are a part of the book, but Lorrayne, Beverly and Bonnie's stories are the main focus. Moreau's account of the womens' friendships and worry about their husbands well-being is not so different from what I envision for today's military wives. The politics of the Vietnam War is not focused on so much - more importance is placed on the relationships among the women. Bonnie's role as the wife of a soldier who is MIA places her in the position of taking an active part in finding information about her husband and other MIA soldiers. Moreau is able to recall her own time spent at Schilling Manor - despite the worry her mother and other women experienced, life for a teenage girl was still about finding a boyfriend, stealing cigarettes from her mother (this was the 1970s) and being fairly self-absorbed. At one point, her father had to call her from Vietnam to discuss her behavior with her - a big deal for that time period.
This book was very interesting to me - I liked learning more about the women who were a part of the Schilling Manor Waiting Wives club. Written like a memoir, it was easy to read and gave a good deal of background about the Vietnam War. Because I read this over a span of time, only allowing myself to read this book while running on the treadmill, I did find the changing time periods hard to follow. Because the chapters are not read chronologically I had to make myself pay attention at when certain events were happening.
Schilling Manor was closed after the Vietnam War, its last role as a base for women and children. Those women and children who called this place home for a brief time are a small portion of the population, experiencing something no other military family before or after was privy to. Prior to reading this book I did not know of the existence of Schilling Manor or its role in the Vietnam War, either.
Visit the Waiting Wives website.