Now that we have actual orders and a rental house nailed down, it looks like this Fort Eustis, Va., move is really going to happen. I’ve been thinking about the things I’ll miss about Fort Hood and Central Texas, and the things I won’t. Keep in mind that being assigned here was not what I’d originally hoped for, so I’d say I’ve come a long way since then.
Let’s begin with what I won’t miss — No. 1 is the allergies. Having lived in many locales and having suffered from allergies in pretty much all of them, this has been the worst by far. I never realized a semi-desert environment could produce so many misery-causing trees, grasses and molds but clearly it can. Between the mountain cedar and the long list of other offenders — I was tested, so I know — it’s safe to assume I’ve been a walking mucus maker during our time here. Our boys are also affected, especially the younger one, who seems to have inherited my constitution (the poor kid).
I will not miss the extreme summer temperatures either. Although I love me some sun and warmth, I can do without the triple digits. To my way of thinking, it’s just as crippling as living in a frigid climate during the winter — you are basically trapped inside, unless a sunburn and heatstroke are no problem for you. And yes, there are those wacky people who can go for a run at noon when it’s 102 here.
A third aspect of living here that I won’t mourn when we leave is the driving. Everyone complains about the way people drive wherever they live but it seems particularly pronounced in the Killeen area. Folks are in a perpetual hurry and often tailgate the guy in front or pass on the right instead of the left. And when it comes to merging, many drivers are just plain mean and refuse to let you in.
I was telling a friend (who is on her fourth Fort Hood tour) how venturing onto U.S. Highway 190 is becoming more stressful and she nodded knowingly, explaining this was always a sure sign that she had nearly reached the three-year mark at Fort Hood.
Oh, and having to exit across the highway from your destination onto a frontage road, then make a U-turn to the other side — that’s not something I’ll miss. Apparently frontage roads are a big deal in this state. While I’m on the subject of cars, I might as well add in “gigantic pickup trucks with stupid bumper stickers” as something else I’ll be happy to see in the rearview mirror. Then again, they are going to be in Virginia, too.
Nor will I miss the crime rate in Killeen. Every morning in the local news there are reports of a shooting or a domestic dispute or countless burglaries. I know this takes place everywhere but for a city the size of Killeen, the amount of violence and criminal activity is extreme. A quick check on the Internet and I soon learned that the Killeen crime rate is both higher than the rest of the state’s average crime rate and the national average. (By contrast, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove see very little crime).
OK, enough of the bad stuff—on to what I will miss. As corny as it sounds, I will miss the people here terribly. This may sound like I’ve been drinking an awful lot of the Kool-Aid, so to speak, but it’s true. Although our wonderful neighbors are a big reason for this “warm-fuzzy,” the overall good vibes we’ve gotten from many others, both on and off-post are also factors. And I don’t think we’ll ever be a part of an Army community whose civilians embrace the military quite like the residents do here.
I will miss the unique Texas scenery, particularly the Hill Country. Just a short drive south of Killeen will find you in terrain that is simply breathtaking. Add to that the state flower, the bluebonnets — I love those. Another item on my “miss” list is the Texas barbecue. Back when I lived in North Carolina, folks there touted their local vinegar-based barbecue as the best. Try as I might, I never fell in love with it, but I do relish a plate of Texas barbecue smothered in red sauce.
And finally, I will miss the Texas summer nights. They are soft, warm and perfect for gazing at the heavens above. As the iconic song goes, “the stars at night … are big and bright … deep in the heart of Texas!”
Aren’t you glad you can’t hear me singing?