Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Leif & Nikko - Fort Benning, Georgia - April 1998
Leif had started as a student at Kansas State University while he was still a senior at Manhattan High School because he had plenty of credits for high school graduation. He was a full time student at KSU in the fall of 1993, and in October 1995, when he should have been in his junior year, he and Nikko got married.
Like all students, they struggled financially, even with the substantial assistance we gave them, but one reason for that was Leif's spending. He bought a Yamaha motorcycle, which he could ill afford, and that added monthly payments he had to make.
He worked part time in the electronics department at Sears, and Nikko was working at a futon store in Aggieville, and for awhile, they were doing reasonably well. Then disaster struck. After the Christmas holidays, Sears fired a lot of employees, believing they weren't needed after the Christmas rush, and Nikko lost her job. Suddenly, they were without income.
Leif found a job at Aggieville Pizza, and I helped Nikko find a job as a waitress at Country Kitchen, but during the time they were without jobs, they had run up bills they couldn't get on top of.
Finally, by the fall of 1997, Leif was working full time at Aggieville Pizza, until closing at 2 AM and then having to stay and close. He was exhausted and couldn't find energy or time to study, missed classes, and finally dropped out of school. We were dismayed to find out just how far in debt they were, and that they couldn't pay their rent, insurance or credit card bills. We paid them.
Leif, trying to find a way out of his difficulties, decided to enlist in the army. He wanted to big enlistment bonus given for infantry enlistments so that he could pay some bills and pay some of the money back that we had spent on his bills, though Peter W. (his dad) advised him to choose a different MOS.
He enlisted late that fall, with a reporting date in January 1998. We knew that would probably be the last Christmas we would see them for awhile, and we also had to celebrate his birthday along with Christmas, as he wouldn't be there for his birthday. He'd be at basic training. I'll write more about his military years next month.
I had the impression that Nikko was not happy about his enlistment decision, and while he was gone to basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, she missed him terribly. She shared his letter with us, came over for dinner, asked us lots of questions about the army (since Leif's father had served 24 years) and couldn't wait to see him.
We were allowed to visit him in mid-cycle in March, and we all went to Fort Benning to be with him.
Then we went back for his graduation in April, which is when this picture was taken, right after the impressive graduation ceremony. Leif looked terrific, and he definitely had the bearing of a soldier, tall and confident. Nikko and Leif were so glad to see each other, even though it was only for a few days.
Leif was selected for further training as an armorer, and to fire a new weapon, and so he didn't leave Fort Benning until several weeks after the Basic graduation. He got orders to Fort Drum, New York, and he and Nikko moved there at the end of May 1998.
While we were at Fort Benning, we got to see Peter Anthony who was attending an Air Force class in Montgomery, Alabama. We all went out to brunch at Applebee's and dinner at Outback together.