Honeymoon in Baghdad

By Major Van Harl, USAF Ret.

When Lauren Osinski’s grandfather came home from his war (WW II), he used the GI Bill to finish college, married his college sweetheart and got on with his life. When Lauren came home from her war (15 months in Iraq), she sort of did the same thing. Lauren went back to Eastern Illinois University to finish her last two years of college. There she fell in love with a fellow classmate and got married a couple months after graduation.

The major difference is that Lauren is now Second Lieutenant Lauren M. Bowen US Army, Medical Service Corps and her husband is Second Lieutenant Adam Bowen US Army, Chemical Corps. They met in the Army ROTC program at school and trained together for two years. After graduation and being commissioned Lieutenants they headed out in opposite directions to start their active duty Army training.

Within two months, they decided their ROTC friendship was really more than “Army buddy stuff” and on 31 August 2007, they married. Lauren drove from Ft. Lewis, Washington where she had just finish training, to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri to get married. Adam was attending his officer basic course there. As soon as the ink was dry on the marriage license, Lauren headed to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for more training. After Ft. Sill, Lauren went to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, for her officer basic course.

Lauren and Adam saw each other during that time on a couple long weekends. The two new Lieutenants found out they would be stationed in Hawaii. Adam went to Hawaii first and Lauren followed in late December after she finished her training in Texas. She arrived on 21 December 2007 and both Lieutenants Bowen boarded a plane for Iraq on 29 January 2008. They had five weeks together in Hawaii, but both being new to the Army and immediately ordered to Iraq meant lots of hurry-up deployment training.

A honeymoon on a tropical island was not what happened for these two soldiers. In 1983, my wife and I were assigned to Osan Air Base, Korea. This was a remote assignment, so we lived in military dormitories and most of the other officers at Osan were there by themselves. The Air Force had just sent me to Army infantry school and the Army had me convinced I was headed to war in Korea. I had my young Air Force nurse wife with me and I believed there could be some real shooting going on while we were on that peninsula. History, of course, shows that the two Captains Harl did not go to war in Korea.

I would suggest that the two Lieutenants Bowen will not be that lucky. Lauren is prior Army National Guard. As former enlisted Military Police, she already has a history of firefights in Iraq from her first deployment to the Gulf. When Lauren came to see us after she returned from her first tour, she and her fellow MP friend both looked like school girls headed to the mall. Most people on Altus Air Force Base, where she came to visit us, would have never guessed these young women were combat veterans.

The two new Lieutenants Bowen are now posted in Iraq and the Army has graciously given them a room together. It is a metal trailer that is broken into multiple rooms for sleeping. Lauren’s first tour in Iraq found her sleeping in large tents in 120-degree heat. I remember when my wife and I were in Korea there was some resentment by fellow officers in our dorm because I had my wife with me for that year’s assignment and those with civilian spouses did not. The difference was, both of us were in uniform performing the mission and if the North Koreas came south, both of the Captains Harl were staying for that war. If you really want to get to know your new spouse, go to war with him or her.

The military is a maturation process and war is an even greater maturation process. With all the sand, perhaps the Bowens can close their eyes and imagine they are on a beach enjoying their time together, but the reality is that they are at war--together. To the Lieutenants Bowen, congratulations on becoming new Army officers and new spouses, you will serve your country well. We miss you, be safe.

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Copyright 2008, 2016 by Major Van Harl USAF Ret. All rights reserved.