We moved to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico in the summer of 1990, barely a year after the island suffered devastation from hurricane Hugo, and just a month before mobilization for what was then called Operation Desert Storm began. Life there could have been a relaxed, Caribbean sojourn, but instead it involved a lot of stress and many, many extra hours of hard work for Peter W., who became the mobilization officer, and me, as I chose to work with family support activities helping with programs for many frightened wives who would see their husbands off to war.
Leif had some initial trials as the new, tall "gringo" at Antilles High School, but he got through them and made some wonderful friends. In some ways, I think his two years in Puerto Rico may have been the happiest of his life once he was accepted.
These photos were taken after we had been in Puerto Rico for a year and although I am no longer sure, I think Leif was going to a Halloween party. You can see his wild humor in these photos, covering his head with shaving cream.
We had very special neighbors who became our friends at Fort Buchanan, too. The friends we made helped to make a stressful time into something shared and in many ways pleasurable. One of those friends, Jennifer, shared these thoughts with us after hearing about Leif's death:
I remember him as an intensely intelligent young man with such a distinct sense of humor!
I remember you telling me that he got the part in the High School production of "Grease" and it was so delightful to see him on stage and to hear about the mishaps with the main prop - the car!
Tim and I being childless and far from family most of our military career, didn't have the privilege of attending our siblings family events very often, so seeing your handsome Alex up there was a memorable treat for us.
I remember Halloween in the tropics....what to wear as a costume that you wouldn't sweat to death in was a serious challenge....Alex was GENIUS here- and covered his entire head with shaving cream!
I remember having a conversation with you about having ones ears pierced and chiming in that I had been the one to pierce all of my younger sisters ears.
Jerri, I thought your attitude was sooo coool to let Alex be one of my clients! I remember that he studied Marshal Arts, and was very disciplined in mind over matter. He didn't flinch at all during the procedure. I'm sure he was thinking about the outcome and the benefit that he would experience because of the short discomfort he'd experience in my kitchen that day.
It has been a pleasure seeing him grow to adulthood through the pictures in your yearly newsletters.
How well I remember Leif getting his ears pierced! I wish I had photos. He did have to exercise some mental discipline during that procedure, as he could take pain, but didn't like to see blood.
Leif wore an earring off and on for several years, throughout the rest of high school and his initial years of college. Even during military service, he sometimes wore one when off duty. But later, as he got older, he ceased wearing them.