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Daddy dies in Vietnam, Mohammad Ali, and a vacation that taught me a lot about War Widows and Orphans!

On July 25th, 1971 My mom took us to Astroworld in Houston- for our summer vacation.

Dad died in Nam just two years before– And Mom wanted to make great memories for us kids. Like all Great Army Wives/Mom’s did back then… They just took over!

Anyway I was 12 years old- (The same age as my son is today) we stayed in the Astroworld Hotel!

At that time it was listed in the Guinness Book of world records as the Most Expensive Hotel “room” in the world! – Trust me I know, I read the book every year and all the way to Houston on that summer drive!

Apparently, the TOP floor was a giant Penthouse for the rich and famous!

The rest was the normal – but “Pretty darn fancy” to me!

So we arrived and the place was Beautiful! (in 1971 Stucky’s and Howard Johnson’s was more our Speed!) So this place was Stunning!

“Exploring the Hotel”!

One of my Favorite things to do in Hotels as a kid (after we checked in and went to the room) was to ask mom if I could go explore… (like go to the Vending machines to buy confederate money and souvenirs with the $20 she gave each of us kids for vacation!)– or just sit in the lobby and be “Fancy”!

“Can we please” We all said in Harmony!?

She was glad to get rid of me and my 3 sisters, while she put her feet up/took a nap- And we all left together on her command- “Stay Together Kids” — Yes ma’am was answered by her kid choir!

And we all went our separate ways…

The Astroworld Hotel!

This place was so nice that “Every” hallway had carpet from end to end,

And Mirrors as the walls in the elevators!

Fancy – And at age 12 I discovered that – “I like Fancy”!

Did you know that $20 back then is equal to over $100 today?

I ran into my sister Peggy twice in the gift store – she was looking at Leather “Hippy” Shirts (You know, with the dangling frills on the sleeves) In 1971 $20 bucks was a lot of money and I thought she was CRAZY! (But she was older and knew the word COOL) As for me I was gonna make my Money last!

I rode the elevators up and down to the many floors and ran to look out of the glass windows that were at every end of every floor! And I saw every window – on every floor.

I was on the 11th floor looking out – felt like the 100th floor – And I could see Astroworld, the rollercoasters, water rides, and people the size of ants.


My hands and face pressed against glass window – I felt the Cold AC (a Luxury in 1971) – for a moment I stopped breathing- to feel the cold air on my face and the Air- When the view got blurry and felt like passing out…

I turned my 13 yr old self around and I saw… I squinted – and saw my daddy, in Full Uniform walking down the hall – toward me –

“DADDY” I yelled

And ran after him as fast as I could!

Just like you see kids run into their father’s arm when they return today!

“Daddy” as I hurled myself into his Arms…

Only to find me in the ARMS of a Security Officer – and the sound of metal KEYS scatter- when I knocked him down!


I just ran past him – all the way to the elevators – back down room 207, Bam Bam Bam, Mom answers, I run (Past her) to the bed- jump in and cover my head and start crying…

MY MOTHER in her wisdom or Clairvoyance said… “I know how you feel Willy, Take a break!”

I fell asleep before sunset (9pm in Texas July)and they went to Eat dinner without me – And I dreamed about that Hallway encounter with Daddy!


The next morning everyone is asleep at 5AM,

I WAS wide awake… Mom says yes – You can go exploring…ZZZZzzz

I went down to the pool- the most beautiful pool I had ever seen- It had a tiled waterfall that I would swim under and drink from!

…I sat there reflecting (with my feet in the water) about the Beauty and the Fun I was going to have at Astroworld that day.


I got up and ran to an OUTSIDE elevator and ducked into a small group of people getting on…

The doors close and I look up and I see Mohammad Ali with 2 beautiful women and another man…

“Where are you going, young man?” (Ali asked)

Room 207!

“What’s your name”? Willy- I said!

“Willy, you are on the wrong elevator, but this man (he pointed to) will get you there”

Apparently, I was on the outside elevator that went to the Private Penthouse on the top floor. The most expensive Hotel room in the world- the one I read about the whole way there.

They talked to each other – can’t remember a word… but when they got off Mohamad Ali got off he said to me- “Nice meeting you Willy” and got off the elevator …

As his assistant escorted me down to where I was “supposed” to be- my young mind was reeling – thinking wow- That was Mohammad Ali!

ROOM 207

Knock knock… just in time for breakfast… I told MOM (and sisters) this story and they said “Sure/Lier”… So Mom pulled me into the bathroom and quizzed me… I swear Mom…

Starving for Breakfast and the BEAUTIFUL Lobby Buffet!

We all went to the BEAUTIFUL lobby/restaurant and sat there drinking ice water in a Fancy wine glass- I remembered I ordered pancakes with Blueberry syrup – (a new thing in 1971) –

My Mom was reading a Time magazine at the table – and the front page was Mohammad Ali- Who was fighting at the Astrodome THAT VERY day- July 26th, 1971!

I glanced to my right to a table across from us and there HE WAS!

Mohammad Ali!


I reached up and tore the front cover off her magazine and walked to his table eating breakfast and asked him for an autograph- He signed it and said – ” I’d be glad to Willy” – He remembered my name! OMG, I felt dizzy- He remembered my name…

I went back to mom and sisters with a prized signature that they never knew how much it meant to me… I’m not even sure they believed it “with their own eyes”!

Mohammad Ali, my Mom, nor my sisters, never knew how important this was to me.

It was a vacation of healing – for all of us- in our own way.

But on that long drive back home – I did!

I got to spend the best “Fancy” Vacation with my widowed mom and sisters – oh and my Dad!

AND Mohammad Ali – RIP

…just an Army Brat memory… Willy!

PS – I still have that Autograph!


—Willy Boroski



The Museum Celebrates 10 years this Month!

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February 18, 1968

February 18, 1968 — Air Force Sgt. Richard Charles Ramsey killed by shrapnel from a 122mm rocket…. Rest in Peace Rick.
by Mark Fleisher

I saw no rocket’s red glare,
hearing only the whistling hiss
a millisecond before the thunderclap
knocked me to the floor,
filled my eyes with death’s dust,
dammed my ears with silence

Anyone hit?

I felt no pain, yet blood
spattered across my shirt,
leaving me to wonder
if shock dulled my senses;
Only when I wiped away
the gritty particles
did I realize pieces of hot metal
had slashed his organs
and innards from their moorings,
spilling them into a bloody pool

That night we congregated
at my bunk, dissecting our loss
as a doctor might autopsy a cadaver:
“He didn’t know what hit him”
“He didn’t suffer”
“He didn’t cry out for his mother”
No mutation of the language
made him any less dead, did it?

I was among many drinking
himself to sleep that night,
yet hoping sedation by alcohol
would not render us helpless
if acts of random wickedness
interrupted our rendezvous
with Hypnos and Somnos
who too often begrudgingly
offered their treasured gift

By the next morning
the space had been cleansed of blood,
two workmen squatted
on their haunches,
affixing pristine panels
onto the floor;
One put a nail through
the untucked tail of the other’s shirt
and when the aggrieved man stood,
the shirt responded
with a clean tear reaching
to the garment’s collar;
He cursed at the top of his lungs
in that language we knew
a smattering of words;
The other returned the curses
and we all laughed, wondering
if this act reminiscent
of an ancient vaudeville sketch
was meant to induce our amusement
and lighten the tension
we felt then and beyond

Originally published in Reflections: Soundings from the Deep

Mercury Heartlink Press, 2018

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From Where I Sit

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About the Museum of the American Military Family

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Riding With Private Malone


Every morning is a time for reflection. Here is my contribution today: Veterans Day.

Riding with Private Malone is a song written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, and recorded by American country music artist David Ball. It was released in August 2001 as the first single from his album Amigo. The song reached a peak of #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks charts and #36 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was Ball’s first Top 40 country hit since “Look What Followed Me Home” in 1995. USA Today referred to it as “the country song that tapped most subtly and profoundly into the emotions of its audience” after the September 11 attacks, even though it was released to radio a few weeks before the attacks. This song is long (4:24), breaking the 3-20 rule but it was still a solid hit due to its resonating…

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My Favorite Christmas

by RT Douthitt

If I’ve posted this before please be patient. My mom and I were discussing this yesterday since it is the holiday season. It was the Christmas of 1965 and we were in Fort Devens, Massachusetts. My brother and I crept downstairs and were blown away by what we saw. It was as if someone had taken the entire boys section of a large toy store and put it all in our living room. Santa had always been good to us on Christmas. But this was monumental. It took days for us to realize what we had gotten, and weeks to play with everything. Santa had gone crazy.

It took many years for me to learn the truth behind that Christmas. It’s to my sorrow that my dad was gone before I found this out. My parents knew that by the time summer vacation rolled around my dad would be on his way to Vietnam. He already had two friends, both of whom were also fathers, who had been killed there. It was his idea that if this was to be our last Christmas together, he wanted it to be one we would never forget. We never have. Finding that out just made the feelings I had for my father even deeper than they had been.

I told this story to my stepson when he was a kid. He asked me if that was my favorite Christmas, and seemed confused when I told him it was my second favorite. A lot of Brats, maybe all of you, will understand this. My favorite Christmas was in 1967. Me, my brother, and my mom all asked for the same thing. There were shrapnel scars on the left side of his body and several other scars on his upper chest. But sitting in his favorite chair looking over the new fishing reel he’d gotten was my dad. And we all knew it wasn’t Santa who had brought him home to us.

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Father Ramos

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MAMF partners with One Community Auto

Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center Selects One Community Auto to Handle Vehicle Donations 

ALBUQUERQUE, NM, November 15, 2020—The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center (MAMF)  announced today an affiliation with One Community Auto to increase the value of vehicles donated in support of the organization’s mission. MAMF will work with One Community Auto to promote the program to their supporters, detailing how the fast-track program works to bring in monies for their critical missions.

One Community Auto repairs and refurbishes the donated cars and other vehicles, then sells them in their monthly online auction. The online sales effort means quicker sales, getting the monies raised to specific charities to provide additional critical funding. 

“We are appreciative of the opportunity to be part of this program,” says MAMF Secretary/Public Affairs Dr. Allen Dale Olson. “One Community Auto is a veteran owned business and works hard to support military and veteran organizations in New Mexico. Even though One Community Auto is in Albuquerque, it can accept donations from anywhere in the US. We look forward to working with One Community Auto.”

The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center brings together people with shared experiences showcasing and honoring those who also served–America’s Military Families.

MAMF encourages its supporters to learn more about the opportunity to turn cars into cash to support its mission by visiting https://militaryfamilymuseum.org/donate/

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For Additional Information: Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, Executive Director (505) 504-6830

Museum of the American Military Family.  546B State Highway 333  Tijeras, NM 87059

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Creative Gravy

I’m an Army brat and then was an Army wife for some years.  My Thanksgiving story is from the Army wife years…

I learned to bake wonderful stuff from my mom but wasn’t as talented with meal cooking in the early years….  the first Thanksgiving with my husband was at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, after he returned from Viet Nam. 

 Like my parents had always done, we invited some of my husband’s single friends to share Thanksgiving dinner at our quarters.  Things were going fine until it was time to make the turkey gravy.  Gravy wasn’t something I’d ever made before and I didn’t know to brown the butter and flour before adding the liquid… so we had some really anemic looking stuff.  

BUT, I had food coloring ( the basic red, blue, yellow, green) so I figured I could mix colors to get a nice brown.  It might have worked if I’d thought to mix the colors BEFORE adding them to the gravy… but hindsight is always perfect.  Instead, I served pasty white gravy with confetti spots of red, blue, and green floating around in it.  

Wish you could have seen the faces on all those guys!!!

Sue Johnson