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“A ‘we’ thing”: supporting a partner through a career of military service

An older man and older woman in a military uniform smile at the camera

Last summer, the nonprofit StoryCorps hosted an oral history project here in Wyoming in which veterans and their families recorded honest and personal stories about their military experience. We’re grateful and excited to share those conversations with our listeners as a monthly series on Open Spaces.

In today’s story, we meet a husband and wife who reflect on their different journeys serving in the Air Force and how they’ve supported one another along the way.

Anna Ayars: Hello, my name is Anna Ayars. I’m 49 years old.

Silvio Ayars: Hello, my name is Silvio Ayars. I’m 60.

AA: What were your reasons behind joining the military?

SA: My father was a truck driver. I was 18, and we were in Rhode Island, and he told me, “You're 18 now, son, you got to start thinking about making a living.” And he said, “When we get home, I'll buy you a truck and you can drive trucks.” In that moment, my whole life flashed in front of me and I'm like, there's no way in hell I'm driving a truck for the rest of my life. So we got back from Rhode Island, I went to sleep, I got up, went down to the recruiter. Next thing I know, I was off to basic training.

So you deployed once, I know you did.

AA: I deployed in 1997 to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. As a female in Saudi Arabia, I was not allowed to leave the installation once I arrived, and I was there for six months.

SA: During that deployment, we were dating, and I just happened to get orders there with her. So I got there a little bit before her and I left a little bit before her, but it was my favorite deployment.

AA: We met in City Limits. It was a bar in Clovis, New Mexico. It was my last active duty station, Cannon Air Force Base. And I had walked into this country bar with my friend, and she introduced me to my husband.

SA: Like she said, she was introduced to me, and we were talking and I looked at her and I said, “I know you.” And she's like, “Yeah, whatever.” And she turned around to walk away. And she had this jacket on, and it said Southern Conspiracy Korea. And I said, “Hey. Fourth of July, Osan Air Base, flatbed trailer, you were singing backup vocals in a country western band in the transportation yard.” And she stopped dead in her tracks and turned around and looked at me. She goes, “That was over two years ago.” And I said, “I never forget a pretty face.”

AA: True story.

SA: True story.

AA: So you retired from the military. Tell me a little bit about the events that led up to your retirement.

SA: I was the first sergeant at headquarters NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and had about 500 troops. And I had been there for four years. And it was just, I was going to work and it wasn't getting fun anymore. And I'm like, I don't want to look back on my career and have any regrets. I wanted the military to be part of my life. I didn't want it to be my life.

AA: I had gotten out of the Air Force, active duty, right before we got married. And I found that I missed being in the Air Force. I felt I missed the camaraderie. I also missed the rules and regulations. I knew what I had to do, when I had to do it, how I had to do it. So after 9/11 happened, he retired. And I asked him, "What do you think about me going in the reserves?” He says, “Yeah, do it, do what you want.” His career ended and mine started over. And we've been doing that ever since.

SA: I remember I was a civilian military policeman on the Guard base where she was at. And I came home from duty one night and she's like, “Hey, you want to move to Wyoming? I just got a full time position offer.” And I'm like, “Sure, let's go.” One of the things when my wife [asked] if I wanted to move to Wyoming, I was joking with her, and I said, “Are you going to make chief?” Which is E-9, the highest enlisted rank in the Air Force? And she did it, as of December.

AA: I never thought I’d make chief. I never thought I’d be here.

SA: I knew you would.

AA: There were so many people who believed in me and who pushed me in that direction. Looking back on the 30 years since I joined, it wasn’t a “me” thing. It was a “we” thing. You, my chief supporter, but everyone along the way.

Thanks for having this conversation with me, old man.

SA: No doubt. Maybe we oughta do this without a facilitator and an appointment.

AA: Right? For sure.

Noa was born in Virginia Beach, VA, and grew up with a love of storytelling. From hosting local open mic nights to participating in creative writing workshops at college, Noa believes in the power of stories to unsettle our perspectives and spark empathy. With strong interests in environmental studies and the history of the American West, she could not be more excited and grateful to work with Wyoming Public Media.

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