SOURCE: Columbus Connections: A Collection of Wartime Stories by Lynn Willoughby (2007).
Barbara Jackson’s motto has always been “Do it all the way or not at all.” She spent her years as an Army wife giving one hundred percent to support not just her family, but countless other Army dependents. However, when she first met her future husband in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1984, she was a bank branch manager, thoroughly engrossed in the corporate world with no clue about Army life and no burning desire to know it. As time went on, Barbara noticed that when Anthony wore his National Guard uniform, he stood taller. She encouraged him to join the military full time, but when he did, she began to wonder what she had gotten herself into. She still remembers how frightened she was driving through Atlanta on her way from Michigan to Columbus to watch Anthony graduate from basic training with two small children and a new mother-in-law. As much as she enjoyed her career, she left it to follow Anthony to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The adjustment was hard for her. Schofield was not family-oriented, and she felt the burden of being left behind during his deployments with three children to rear alone.
The Jacksons moved to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 1990, and on her baby’s second birthday, Anthony left for Operation Desert Storm. While he was deployed to Saudi Arabia, Barbara rolled up her sleeves. She believed with conviction that an adult should not have to go to war worried about their children, so in addition to rearing her three children, she began keeping other Army dependents. She babysat for spouses weighed down with the burden of being temporary single parents in need of a few precious hours for themselves. This part-time work quickly became full-time childcare in her home, as Barbara realized that service to the spouses and children of military personnel had become her new career. Barbara wanted to give the children more than just a safe place to wait for their parents to come home. She had a special way of making each child feel welcome, loved, and secure. She understood the emotional benefits of providing consistency and structure in a child’s life. She began studying early childhood development, and the children in her care thrived.
The more she helped them, the more she wanted to help. At one point, she was potty training six two-year-olds at the same time. At another point, she cared for three children around the clock for an entire month while their mother was deployed. But she didn’t stop there. She saw a need to improve the general quality of childcare at Fort Campbell. She brought together other childcare providers to inspire them to enjoy their responsibility to the children and to go the extra mile in developing their mental and emotional health. Already working more than full-time hours for the children, Jackson became the mayor of her housing village, responsible for the support of 202 families. She established a neighborhood watch program and volunteered countless hours to mother the mothers, as well as the children.
When Anthony retired in 1994, the Jacksons moved to Columbus. Today, Barbara continues to support the troops but in a more personal way. Both of her sons are in the military and in 2007, one was serving in Iraq. She would send them care packages from home and write newsy but upbeat emails that she knew they would need to be reassured all is well at home. Barbara returned to the corporate world as an insurance agent, but she still remembered the children. One day she may return to her calling and inspire parents to be better and children to be all that they can be, no matter what life hands them.
Ode to the Military Spouse May 5, 2020 Missionmilspouse.org No oath is recited or spoken No ceremony for swearing in Just a passionate and resolute spirit When the military spouse journey begins Independent, but always loyal With an adventurous, adaptable soul Fear may shake them to their core But it only helps their courage to grow Anchored in a sea that’s uncertain Not knowing what tomorrow may bring They shed tears for those lost and hurting And surround one another with strength Rooted in brave determination And a tenacious, humble heart With steadfast, compassion for others That keeps them from falling apart They rise beyond what most can handle An often unseen and powerful force With wholehearted loyalty they serve The military spouse deserves our support Let’s show them they are not unnoticed They are brave, steadfast and true Their loved ones rely on their strength They deserve our deepest gratitude