C.J. and I traveled alot to the P.X. (Post Exchange) off duty. We could get hair cuts, buy beer, shop for snacks for the mini fridge in our room and look for books. The P.X. also had a jewelry department. I wasn’t telling anyone about my plan to return to Europe to see Annetta. Mostly, because it was illegal.
Traveling across international borders required a passport. There were customs checks, security checks and baggage inspections. Military personnel could bypass customs and passport checks with their green Military I.D. card and orders which were written on US Army letterhead. I had traveled to and from Europe quite a few times by this point. I wouldn’t have orders which would require a passport. I was going to test the system and travel illegally.
The P.X.’s jewelry selection left much to be desired, however I could put an engagement ring on layaway. On my salary I didn’t have much wiggle room. I was thinking about the flawed 1/4 karrot diamond ring at the back of the display case. The price tag on it read $800. The saleswoman was asking me all kinds of questions about the style of ring I desired, the background of the ring, the band itself and the ring size I needed. I was in over my head. I was going to turn around to leave when C.J. saw me. He had been book shopping when I snuck away. I was weary of anyone getting this information. I was planning to break international law. This was not exactly behavior fit for an active duty United States soldier.
I don’t remember much about what was said or who spoke first, however C.J. was also planning a trip to Europe. Ireland to be exact. His girlfriend lived outside of Dublin. He was going to request leave after our E.F.M.B. test. It was him who helped me decide on getting the ring. He simply said to me, ” you wont know if she will say yes if you don’t fucking ask her will ya, ya cunt ya”. C.J. was a poet.
I put my last $200 down to secure the ring and I would have to pay a little over $100 every two weeks when I got paid. At that rate I would be able to have the ring paid off by the E.F.M.B test. That took care of that. Now I would have to save the $1200 for the round trip ticket to Germany and have money to spend when I got there. My social life, not that I had one, was going to be put on hold for quite a few months.
The whole ride home from the P.X. I informed C.J. of my travel plans and the risks involved. He was a couple years older than me yet wore the years heavily on his face. The longer I knew him the easier it was for me to talk to him. His wisdom matched the experienced face he wore. He had the face of a forty year old on a twenty year old body. He had no judgement of my criminal plan yet seemed, for lack of a better word, to respect my decision.
We found out we were slotted for N.T.C. (National Training Center) before the E.F.M.B. test. That would be thirty days straight, in the field, before the grueling three day test. It was good news for my savings plan (we couldn’t spend money in the field) yet bad news for the test (thirty days of training in combat like conditions would leave us exhausted).
I wasn’t sure how Annetta would respond to me coming to visit her. She answered all my letters promptly and was always home when I called. She was also twenty years old, gorgeous and living in Europe as a single woman. I knew how I felt and I now had a plan. If I stayed the course I could accomplish everything needed to complete the task. I just needed one thing more to continue: her approval.