I met this young lady, Bente Katja Pedersen, while on MSG duty in Copenhagen, Denmark. We married in the Copenhagen Town Hall in Sept. 1955. We were both 19 years old. I was a Pfc. that had recently been court-martialed and reduced in rank from Sgt. to Pfc. Why?
Copenhagen was a favorite leave site for soldiers up from Germany. The small detachment of Marines had a number of Korean War vets, one had been at Chosin, and they did not like doggies at all! One night there was a barroom brawl between us and them and it made the Danish papers, which embarrassed the ambassador. The Marine Corps came down hard on those involved, so once again I was candidate for mess duty and walking guard on return to the states. Stupid? You better believe it. Took long to catch up.
On arrival in the U.S., my new bride was sort of dumped on my folks in Colorado while awaiting the birth of our daughter. I went on to Cherry Point. She was pregnant and alone in a new country, and living with strangers. When she was able to come to North Carolina in January 1956 with our new baby, we lived in a very small camping trailer up on blocks. In those days that was what the lower ranks lived in.
After a few months' orders came for overseas, which in those days required about 14 months separation from families. She was back to Colorado to move in with my folks. On my return from Iwakuni, my daughter had learned to walk and talk — and didn't know who I was.
More overseas tours between transfers here and there. We had more than five years of those separations, and Bente made the best with what was required in a military marriage. The worst separation periods came about because of the Vietnam War. While on a "usual" tour as a CWO-2 in Japan, the Vietnam War started and my unit, MAG-16, deployed to Danang in 1965. On return to the states I joined a newly formed HMM-165 and after 15 months training we deployed to Ky Ha. So we had been separated for 13 months, together for 15, then separated for 13 more, this time into combat. This would be a real emotional burden for any family to carry. But Bente made the best of a bad situation. There was still one more tour to Japan before retirement. Unaccompanied, of course.
After retirement in Oct. 1972, we moved to Minnesota to farm for a few years. Bente was not keen for this particular endeavor, but she pitched in and worked hard. I posted here before how she helped to castrate little pigs, helped with the livestock chores, and learned how to kill and clean a chicken for dinner. After the farm we moved to Denmark for 10 years, then returned to Colorado where we are now.
For a further perspective, Bente was a little girl when the Germans invaded her country in 1940, staying for five years. Once she had the experience of her mother and grandmother being held at gunpoint by the Gestapo while their home was ransacked looking for a relative who was in the Resistance. A neighbor had betrayed him. During the latter part of the occupation the Germans began a reign of terror and on occasion would open fire on people in the streets. A stranger during one incident pulled Bente down into a gutter when a carload of Germans fired in her direction — Bente saw combat long before I ever did.
This has been longer than I intended, but I wanted to paint a picture of one remarkable military wife. She has put up with a lot, as many others have, but after 45 years we are still going strong. We have had our arguments and disagreements, but we work them out. Last year Bente was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been operated on and had the radiation treatments and things look okay now, but she is being watched closely.
I was one lucky Marine to have gone to Denmark. There were many embassy posts open at that time, but the luck of the draw sent me there.
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The author: Thomas Mix joined the Marine Corps in Sept. 1952 as a 16 year old. Served mostly with Marine Aviation. Vietnam in 1965 with H&MS-16, again in 1966-67 with HMM-165. Marine Security Guard with the American Embassy, Copenhagen, 1954-55. Married a wonderful Danish girl then; still happily married. Commissioned as a Warrant Officer 1962, retired with the rank of Captain, October 1972.
Click HERE to eyeball pix of the author at war