Recently I was invited to the 70th reunion of he headquarters I was assigned to for 15 of my 27 years in the military.
I had not seen some of these people in 42 years. Everyone there knew me or knew of me. I had played sports, ran their printing department, was on many boards, and was in charge of marching our troops during parades.
Everyone wanted to shake my hand or give me a hug. We were on the flight line at Travis Air Force Base, California.
Afterward I was sitting in the front row of the stands and this lady kept looking at me for the longest time. At first I thought it was one of the thousands of wives of men who had worked for me or played sports with me.
After about an hour, this lady heads my way. She came up to me and gave me a hug and said, “Sgt. Vanover, you do not remember me, do you?” Then she told me her name. I had not seen her since 1968 when I was assigned to Germany. She told me that she would have known me anywhere, that I had not changed that much.
Then everything came back to me. She had been in an orphanage in Colombia, and was adopted by a family from the United States. She said she vividly remembers arriving in the U.S. and meeting her new family for the first time at the age of four, and did not know one word of English. The fact that she was adopted was something her parents openly discussed with her and were casual about.
After high school and basic training she came to work for me, and I assigned her to my blank forms department next door to the printing department on three bases stateside and overseas at Hickam Field, Hawaii.
She worked for me for about 10 years. I sat on the promotion board and promoted her twice. She was always one of my best workers.
I never saw her again when I was assigned to Germany in 1968. I heard about her through a couple of her bosses she worked for, and they told me that she was a good worker and that I had trained her well.
She thanked me for getting her promoted and being so nice to her during the time she worked for me, and said that I was the best boss she ever had, and that I was the cause of her staying in the Air Force for 30 years.
She also told me that when I left Travis, that most of my workers wanted to be assigned to Germany where they would be with me. Seven of the 20-some printers ended up working for me in Europe. She said that she also tried to get assigned to Germany, but was turned down.
We exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch with each other. She lives nearby.