Salute to Spouses Blog

We're excited to be blogging about the latest topics in military life. We want to keep you informed on topics such as current events, education, career advice, etc. Feel free to post comments or questions to any of our entries.
To our fellow military spouse, rest in peace

If you have been stationed in Honolulu, you may know the story of Mary, the homeless woman who camped outside of the JIOC building near Pearl Harbor, often protected from the sun by only an umbrella and an American flag.

She yelled at passing cars. She yelled at the building. But mostly she just sat there and waited.

She passed away on July 4th. A servicemember, who worked in the building she lived in front of, posted a heartfelt eulogy that has made the rounds in military spouse Facebook groups. Read it ‘til the end. You never know the struggles of another or how the smallest kindness can change their world.

The post reads:  

It is with a genuinely heavy heart that I regret to announce the end of an era. Natalie--often derogatorily referred to as "Crazy Mary" or "Bus Stop Mary"--passed away on July 4th at her chosen home here outside the JIOC fence line.

Natalie was an institution here at the JIOC, living outside our fence for over three decades. She was probably most well known for her often abrasive, even vulgar, behavior. Due to a mental disorder that she struggled to manage, she would often yell at our building and our employees, or blow a whistle when she tired of yelling. There were many stories, both real and apocryphal, that have been shared amongst our halls about her: that a departing employee gave her a megaphone as a gift, that she would throw food offered to her if it didn't fit with her vegetarian diet, that she thought we were keeping her husband locked in the basement of our building. With all of these wild tales and antics, it was often easy to dehumanize Natalie. To forget that she was a human being with a story to tell, even if it was often difficult to discern what that story was.

Despite this, in my three years here, I've seen some incredible acts of kindness and compassion by those in the JIOC who sought to treat Natalie as a person who matters, even when she made it difficult. People who refilled her jugs of water for her, or called social workers on her behalf when she asked, offered her food, or even simply said hello or asked how her day was going. Natalie had many terrible days, but she also had some good ones. She had a surprisingly steel-trap mind when it came to names and numbers. I recall one time she'd heard something on the radio several days prior regarding a runner who was injured at a marathon, and asked me if I knew what happened to them. She rattled off the name, I looked it up, and sure enough, that person had been injured as she had said. She was very relieved to find out they were okay.

One of the most lucid moments I personally experienced was when I drove through the gate one day, and my wife was in the passenger seat with her puppy, Kai. As we were waiting to go through the gate, Natalie walked up, and her face lit up at the site of Kai, asking "Is that a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel?" We said yes, and she started excitedly telling us how that was her absolute favorite breed and asked if she could pet her. She was so overjoyed, so happy, that in that moment, you wouldn't know this was the same woman who obsessed about gas trucks driving dangerously fast down the road.

I had the good fortune of striking up a conversation about Natalie with my bus driver on my way to work one day. She told me that in Natalie's previous, more lucid years, she used to take her bus route all the time. Natalie would chat with the driver every day, sharing photos of her daughter, whom she was quite proud of, from an album she carried with her everywhere. She also told this driver her true story...or at least, one that seems true enough that I choose to believe it is real.

Natalie wasn't outside our base because she thought we were keeping her husband hostage. She wasn't there because she thought we were doing experiments or some other conspiracy. Natalie was a military spouse. Her husband went off to war, and he never came home. It broke her. She couldn't believe he was gone. For over three decades, she camped outside our base. When she was moved by social workers, when her daughter tried to intervene, or when she was forcibly moved due to construction, she always came back. Because she was still waiting for her husband to come home.

Natalie was one of ours. May we honor her as such. May she rest in peace. And may she finally discover that after all this time, her husband was waiting to welcome her home.

For Military Spouses
Apply for the Salute to Spouses scholarship today and begin your education! You’ll be on the way to your dream career.

Salute to Spouses Scholarship Recipients