Listen to this story:
“We met in Germany in a laundromat. That’s a classical situation. I never went to the laundromat, but my colleague’s washing machine had broken down. So we decided to go and here he was. At first I thought, I don’t care, I don’t want an American. But then he invited us both for dinner that same evening. Very classy.” What was it about her? “I don’t know. I just liked her. I just liked everything about her.” Will and Christa Harris met 26 years ago in Germany while Will was stationed there in the military. They live together in Watertown, NY where Will came to work at Fort Drum. Will suffered from injuries and PTSD as a result of his combat deployment during the Gulf War. He earned a Purple Heart for his time there.
Returning home, Will and Christa spent years working through what wasn’t even known as PTSD. “The military didn’t recognize it at the time. We had to figure it out on our own.”
Will Harris was stationed in Germany for the military. He went to do his laundry and met his future wife. The two tell their story of love and war.
Will Harris had to do laundry before he headed to Nuremberg to party. That’s where he ran into Christa, his future wife.
Christa Harris: I actually never went to the laundromat, but my colleague, her washing machine broke down and so we decided to go to the laundromat and here he was. First, I thought I don’t want that…not an American because I was just divorced and my daughter was 10 years old. I don’t want to get in that kind of trouble. I ignored him and then he went out to smoke a cigarette – at the time, he smoked cigarettes— and my friend Almas went out, too. And smoked a cigarette and then she came in and said, ‘May I introduce you to Mr. Will Harris.’ Then he invited us both to dinner the same evening – very classy.
Will Harris: So my St. Patty’s day out didn’t happen.
CH: No, it happened. We went to a pizzeria, just not as you thought.
WH: I don’t know, I just liked the way she carried herself and everything else like that. I’m like, hmm, ‘This is interesting, I better stick with this.’
CH: I think it was love at the first sight. I mean, we dated, we didn’t live together for a long time. Because, I lived with my daughter and he had his own apartment a couple miles outside of Nuremburg. Then he had orders to go to the Gulf War – The Desert Storm. In December ’91, no? December ‘91 was that.
CH: And then you were gone for four months.
WH: That was rough. That was rough because there was no built up area. It was just like Saudi Arabia, then Kuwait, then Iraq. And it was just sand – just nothing but sand. It was the first time I was deployed in a war zone. I thought I was going to do 20 years and say hey, I ain’t got to shoot nobody, right? Nobody shoot me. This is good. Then I got the phone call. Went over there and it was…we had about one, two, three…we had about three major battles over there. Three major battles. And the last battle, that’s where my humvee got hit three times with artillery.
CH: The explosion was so bad that your helmet got blown away.
WH: It was like, stuff was going on. I didn’t know what was going on, I was just trying to get out of there.
CH: When he came back from Desert Storm, he was different. I mean, he was always driven. He drunk way more and he hardly ever slept – he was just wandering around the house. But I couldn’t point what that was, you know? I thought he just had to come down after that war experience, I never heard about PTSD for some years or TBI or whatever. I knew he had…was wounded with shrapnel, they’re still in his leg and in his back and stuff. But all the other affects, they came later. He came back, we moved together and then we were always together and then also, that was the time that other side effects came up. His health issues, all that stuff, came up. Not just the mental, the PTSD, but also his physical problems showed more and more so we had to talk more. You deal with the relationship and the problems you have on a day to day basis. You don’t expect that someone gets that sick. Sure, when I met him, that was before the war. He was healthy, he was all different, very outgoing, very nice. But he also has a lot of times where he is very distant now, where he stays in his room for hours a day and stuff like that. But you just deal with it, I guess.
WH: She’s very committed. She’s very committed. She’s very sensible.
CH: When he had orders to come to the states, I had my doubts if I should come over with him – to give up my life, my career. Then my mom said, you married and you go with him. But I think I wouldn’t change anything – the way we met and we’re together.
WH: I wouldn’t change anything either.
CH: I mean, sure, I’d rather he wouldn’t be sick or being in combat. That’s life, I guess. That’s how you deal with, right? I think we would do the most again, right?
WH: Oh yeah. I had fun when I’ve been with you, while I’m with you. I’d say, ‘Relax. Don’t panic. It’s going to be alright.’ That’s the advice I would give myself.