Camp Foster homecoming
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa -- William Carlson has found that you really can go home again – even if it’s to a house on a military base on Okinawa that has been home to many families since he lived there more than a half-century ago.
Much has changed on Camp Foster since Carlson was born there in 1957. Most of the single-story homes have been replaced with multiplexes or high-rises. The military hospital where he was delivered – little more than a series of Quonset huts at the time – is gone, moved to what is now known as Camp Lester, though a state-of-the-art facility will open on Foster in March.
But when Carlson returned earlier last month, accompanied by his wife Saika and their 21-month-old son, Constantine, he found his old house almost intact in the Kishaba residential area, preserving all the memories of countless number of families that it has housed to this day.
Standing at the house’s entrance, the number on the wall still the same, he could hear the cheerful voices of children and a dog’s playful barks, bringing back poignant memories of his family’s life there.
Being back on a military base reassured him of his military tied.
“I have a sense of security on the military base,” he said, recalling how military families take good care of each other.
“For instance, when a kid is injured, some GI would scoop him up and take him to hospital,” he said, bringing the past into the present.
His father, Capt. Raymond Carlson, was stationed on Okinawa in 1955-57 after serving as a flight instructor for the Army Air Corps during World War II and the Korean War and before being deployed to Vietnam.
Shortly after his arrival to the island, he was joined by his wife, Barbara and their two daughters, Linda and Mary, from the U.S. mainland. The family’s voyage aboard the U.S. Army Transport Gen. Edwin D. Patrick took them 22 days a trip that was especially challenging for the children.
“Our younger daughter, Mary, suffered with pneumonia for the duration of the trip,” the 89-year-old senior Carlson, who retired as a lieutenant colonel, wrote in a letter to Stars and Stripes.
The visit renewed the younger Carlson’s love for his family and his respect for his father, who clearly was fighting his own demons from the intensity of combat in Vietnam. He recalled how his father wanted no noise at home in the first week after he returned from the Southeast Asian nation.
“Beyond the first week, he never showed us what he went through,” he said. “My father was able to be very soft at home.”
Carlson grew up as a military dependent, spending most of his childhood in Nurnberg in Germany. He now is an international healthcare executive in Europe and China.