Women of the Gulf War:  Jill Norris Adams

Over forty years ago, Jill became pen pals with Terry, through a mutual friend. He was a marine, stationed at Parris Island, SC. She took a road trip there from Quincy, IL to meet him in person in June, 1975. Several other trips took her to Houston to meet Terry’s sister, then to Shreveport, LA to meet his parents. In September, she packed her possessions and headed to Parris Island, not knowing where this would end up. Fortunately, Terry was out of the Marines by June, 1976, so they moved to Quincy and in with Jill’s parents, until their September 1976 wedding.
One month later, Terry joined the Army, because the Marines said, “If we don’t issue you a wife, you don’t need one!” Jill quickly took a job in an engraving shop at Ft. Hood, Texas. She learned to make plaques, which got her promoted to engraver. One year later, Terry received orders to Germany, so Jill purchased a used engraving machine from her boss and they took off across the pond. Wives of generals and colonels traveled across Germany to Jill for engraved gifts, from 1978-1981. Their first daughter, Jenny, was born in Germany, in 1979. Stacy and Jon were born in Texas in 1982 and 1984.
Terry went to warrant officers’ school in 1984 in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. From there, the family moved to Ft. Polk, LA and back to Germany. In 1990, the family shipped their household to Hawaii for Terry’s next duty station. Then Desert Storm happened. Their furniture and truck ended up sitting on the beach in Hawaii. The family remained in Germany, until Terry deployed to Saudi. Jill and the children then returned to Quincy VIA England for Christmas, knowing Terry would head to Saudi before long. Jill recalls the heart wrenching, sinking feeling of watching Terry watching his family, through the airport glass, which separated them at the departure gate.
While Terry served the Army for six months, as a Radar Warrant Officer in the desert, Jill watched the war unfold on television. Terry rarely called, but when he did, Jill still remembers her first two questions, on every call, “How’re you doing? Are you okay?” Both of them felt numb to this separation from family, due of war. Their children, however, seemed to fare better than their parents. Jill would attempt humor on the rare occasion, when Terry was able to call home, “Did you buy me any gold?” Jill had heard that there was an abundance of cheap gold in Saudi.
After Desert Storm, Terry, Jill and family were reunited and stationed in Hawaii, until he retired in February 1994.
During reintegration sessions, Terry was informed by the unit chaplain, “Remember that you now have independent, capable wives; spouses kept your homes running, your children on task and were our troops’ biggest supporters. Terry did well as he reentered family life. He never talked about the war, although he shared many pictures. Terry is fortunate, in that he did not suffer from PTSD, but that doesn’t make war any less impactful. It tortured him to see orphaned kids and dogs, walking out of nowhere, through the desert.
After military retirement, Terry shared the advantages of a military career with Jill. She realized that he felt more valued in the service than in a civilian job. After being let go from his first post-military position in the states, they both appreciated the stability and security which military provided. “We always felt well taken care of in the service,” Jill commented. The steady pay was nice too.
While reflecting on the military experience in general, and the Gulf War in particular, Jill, truly feels it was never bad – always good. “We managed when the men were out in the field. As Army wives, neighbors became fast friends and could be counted on to come to the aid of another army wife, who might be falling on hard times. We were blessed in so many ways.”
Jill was told that she was the “Perfect Army Wife,” mainly because she held everything together so well, stayed strong, productive and positive. In fact, having the perfect Army wife found a place on one of Terry’s military officer evaluation reports. His commander literally wrote it into his performance category! (This author would bet a week’s wages, that this type of comment isn’t found in many reports!)
As backyard neighbors with Terry and Jill, we enjoy seeing them with their children and grandchildren on a regular basis. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing three-year-old Aubrey, in her pink rubber boots picking green beans with Paw-paw and six-year-old Alaina, in the kitchen helping Grandma make toffee and caramels. Another granddaughter, six-year-old Emily, Skypes frequently, as her family is living in England for three years. Oddly enough, Emily’s dad works at the Royal Air Force Base, where Jill and her three small children landed for Christmas 25 years ago, in December, 1990, to start her journey as the head of the family. Jill and Terry await the arrival of two new grandsons in May.
It’s a time-worn saying, but needs repeating here: “Behind every great man stands a great woman.” That man is Terry. That woman is Jill.