International military wives club continues to thrive
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 31, 2009 1:46 PM
A club formed to support foreign-born military wives continues to thrive after 37 years.
Maria Leacott, a charter member of the International Wives Club at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, recalls the group's formative stages.
"It started during the Vietnam years because there were all these (military) who were in Vietnam or Korea or over in Asia for six months, they'd come back for six months, then went back. Sometimes they brought wives back and children," she said.
In the days before the Privacy Act, it was easy to acquire a list of names of the newcomers, she said.
"I came in August 1972 and I got a call Sept. 1 and we had our first meeting at that time, but the club really didn't start until after, in February," said Mrs. Leacott, who was born in Germany. When her husband retired from the military, the couple remained in the area.
"I'm the only one that's here from when it started," she said.
The club has changed a lot over the years, she said.
"In the beginning we had lots of Oriental girls, girls from different countries -- we had people from about 34 countries," she said. "These days we have about 22 members."
Americans, of course, have always been a staple for the group. While it may have started out with the American members becoming involved "because we needed somebody who drives," Mrs. Leacott said, it has evolved into a multi-cultural appreciation group.
Members typically meet once a month, except during the summer, and each meeting is hosted by a different country. September, for example, is "Spanish month" and is hosted by the Hispanic members. Germany takes October because of Oktoberfest. Americans have November for Thanksgiving, and then December the members hold a potluck dinner or dine out at a restaurant.
"At meetings, sometimes we have a display or talk about the country (hosting)," Mrs. Leacott said. "It's very interesting because even if you're, say, from Germany, but a different part of the country, it's different foods, different ideas. That's with all the countries."
What began as a support group has evolved into a cadre of friends who also take an active role in community service. Members have served as translators for the base hospital and legal office, and have visited schools and nursing homes. An annual fundraiser open house is held at the base air show to help raise money for some of their efforts.
"I think we have done very good things," said Mrs. Leacott. "Now, when they come, it's a different time. Right away they get jobs -- back (when the club started) wives weren't always working, so were more isolated."
Mari Hawley, the current president of the club, said she appreciates the more senior members of the club for what they bring to it.
"Just the fact that a lot of the younger women, we're kind of spoiled by the Internet," she said. "They went through a time of when they had to write letters (to communicate). It kind of reminds me of my grandmother, a World War II wife. They went through harder times and they got through it."