After Jack’s graduation from The Citadel, he barely told Annie good-bye. He left with his friend Tommy Long to go to a class mate’s wedding in The Black Streak, his 1936 Plymouth. He gave her a hug and said, “See you around, maybe.” He knew that he had disappointed her and hadn’t even given her a kiss good-bye. His mind was in a quandary about what to do about her. It didn’t seem fair to ask her to marry him when it was almost written in stone that he would wind up in Korea, nor did it seem fair to ask her to wait for two years until he came back. He knew how he felt about her, but couldn’t ask her to make that sacrifice for him.
Jack didn’t have to report to Fort Belvoir until September 1st, so he decided he needed to get a job and make some money. They were building a church down the street from his house in Nashville, so he signed up to do some construction. It was hard work and would keep him busy and in shape. He had thought about nothing but Annie since he arrived home. His Mother had mentioned her once, but sensed there was something wrong so hadn’t pursued it. Thank God for that. He wondered what Annie was doing and if she had started dating again. It was killing him. He hadn’t heard a word from her but to be fair, he hadn’t written to her or called her either. Considering the way he left Charleston, it was no wonder she had not written. It had been two long weeks but he still didn’t have it figured out. After three weeks had passed, he had an epiphany. He wanted to get married and he wanted to do it before he went into the Army.He thought about the day after their Friday afternoon review when the football manager, Old Jackson, saw them walking across the parade ground and stopped them. He had taken off his hat and made a low bow and said, “Mr. Jack, when are you going to marry up with this pretty little miss?” He also recalled his answer, “Jackson, you’re no Cyrano, but I think you just did my asking for me. Annie was so amused that she took both of their hands and hugged them. Jack knew she was the only girl for him. But he was sure he had messed up badly and hoped it wasn’t too late to repair the damage. He decided to call Annie that night after he came home from work.
He dialed the number of the Nurses Home. Whoever answered, yelled out her name. “Annie Welling, you have a phone call.” He waited what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he heard her sweet Southern drawl, “Hello, this is Annie.”
“Annie, this is Jack. Don’t hang up. I am so sorry about the way I left things with you. I was in a terrible quandary with myself trying to decide what the best thing to do was. It didn’t seem fair to you to ask you to marry me when I knew I would get shipped out to Korea a few months after I went in the Army. No one knows what will happen over there and I worry about not coming back. I know it sounds stupid, but I just shut down, but all I have done is think about you and miss you. I’m so in love with you I can’t see straight. I’m counting on you feeling the same way. Babe, I want to get married. I can’t wait any longer.”
All he could hear was the silence at the other end of the phone. He began to sweat.
“Jack, I should kick you all the way to Hades and back. I have never spent such miserable days and nights as those since you left. You didn’t even kiss me good-bye. You said, and I quote, ‘See you around, Maybe.’ What was that all about?
I wanted to talk to you about this before graduation, but you always seem to be able to avoid the conversation. I wanted to get married too before you go into the Army, but now, there is no time to plan a wedding and you know my Momma, she’ll want to do it up big.”
“Annie, do you really want a big shin dig?”
‘Well, I have always dreamed about my wedding in Trinity Church and how it would be, but we don’t have time to do all that.’
“Babe, I have an idea, let’s elope. How about it?”
“Jack, I don’t know, my Momma will kill me. But what can she do if we are already married. Let’s do it. When did you want to get married?”
Well, let me work for a few more weeks or we won’t have any money until my Army checks start to roll in. I’ll come to Charleston the end of July and we will get our marriage license. We’ll have to wait three days, so schedule your vacation for July 31st. Babe, I love you more than life. I’m so sorry I put you through this but I promise I’ll spend the rest of my life making up for it.”
“Jack, I’m going to hold you to it. I’ll be counting the days. The hardest thing will be not telling my room-mate. She’s going to be so mad. Jack, I love you with all my heart, but if you ever do that to me again, I’ll kick you to the curb.” She began to sing, I’m getting married in the morning. Then she broke out in her big laugh that was contagious. He began to laugh too.
He thought, “and maybe she’ll say maybe.” He was happier than he had been since the day he graduated. Her Momma is going to kill me, not Annie.
The days could not go fast enough to suit him. He had been so angry and blue when he first got back to Nashville. His Mother told him that he was “testy”. She noticed the change in him and wondered if Annie had anything to do with it but never asked. She also wondered if Annie was his girlfriend, since he had never told them when they met her at graduation. Hmm, he did introduce us to her parents. Gosh, I sure hope so. She seems like such a nice personable girl and besides that, she looks just like our family.
The end of July, he packed his stuff and told his folks that he was headed to Charleston on his way to Fort Belvoir. His Dad said, “Jack, you don’t have to report until September the first. Why are you leaving so early?”
“I don’t know Dad, just thought I’d have a little adventure before I go. Who knows what will happen in Korea, I may never have a chance to do this again.”
He took his bag, went out on the highway and hitch hiked to Charleston. He never gave it a thought about what they would do after they got married, where they would go or how. His old 1936 Plymouth had given up the ghost the last time he drove it home. Well, he would worry about that later. This was so out of character for him as he was so detailed oriented. That old song, Get on the Bus Gus began to rattle around in his head. He sure wasn’t going to back out on this deal now. I’m coming Annie, I’m coming. I’m getting married in the morning. His Mother noticed that he had left all his new Army uniforms at home. She wondered what that meant. She would find out all too soon.
As soon as he got to Charleston, they applied for their marriage license, waited the three days and got on the bus and headed to Nashville. They did make a stop in Columbia, South Carolina where they caught a cab and told him to take them any place they could get married. Annie insisted that it be a church. He drove them to Green Street Methodist Church where the Reverend Barrington administered the wedding vows in his church. The Pastor’s wife and the cab driver were their witnesses, but God was their real witness. The cabbie was elated. He noted it was the biggest wedding he had ever attended.
This was how life began for Annie and Jack, they could not have been happier. A few months later, Annie would take a leave of absence from school and join him at Fort Belvoir. He was blessed that he made the football team and that would prove to give them more time together before he would have to go. His coach was a young private by the name of Al Davis who eventually would coach at The Citadel, then at The Oakland Raiders and become their owner. He had notables on his team such as George Morris, All American from Georgia Tech, Hank Larcella, All American from Maryland and Elmer Stout, All American from Oklahoma to name a few.
Sure as shooting, he would get his orders to go to Korea but it would prove to be just another bump in their road. It offered Annie the chance to go back to school and finish her nursing degree. She had taken a leave of absence shortly after they married and gone to Ft Belvoir to be with Jack.
One thing they both knew for certain, it was their destiny. They were soul mates. He was her Yin and she was his Yang. They had never loved each other so deeply. It was a sad day when Jack got on the airplane to go to Seattle to board the troop ship for Korea, a very sad day. He stood on the troop ship and watched the United States of America fade into the ocean. He felt wetness in his eyes and was choked up as the band played The Star Spangled Banner. It wasn’t just about leaving his new bride, it was about duty, honor and country. He had never felt so proud to be an American or to be Annie’s husband.
*Some of this story was told to me by Jack. We celebrated fifty two wonderful years of marriage before being separated by death.