Estimated reading time: 19 minutes
Between my former Navy career and present consulting career I’ve met, worked with, even lived with, a lot of different people. New people constantly cycle into my world, then cycle back out due to forces and decisions not under my control.
On the positive, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting people whom I never would have known through social activities. On the negative, I’ve been forced to deal with some truly horrible people.
More than horrible, I’ve been thrown into dealing with actual monsters living among us. People who from the outside seemed like normally decent human beings, but scratching their skin revealed a creature totally devoid of soul. One of these monsters was a seemingly decent family-man with a wife and three lovely daughters. Dealing with him threw me into one of the ugliest situations I’ve ever been involved in.
My Navy career included a three year tour of duty in Naples, Italy, assigned toSouthern Headquarters, from October 1989 to February 1984. This was the best Navy assignment of my career. Aside from interesting work I had the opportunity to travel Southern Europe and mingle with people of so many different cultures. This was also the first time I worked with members of the US Army and US Air Force.
The US military then had a sizable presence in Naples. Besides NATO, the Navy’s sixth fleet headquarters was there. Altogether we had several Navy bases in the Naples area supporting several thousand active-duty military members and their families. This created a diverse American community with-sponsored K-12 schools, daycare centers, a full hospital with several satellite clinics, and various family service organizations. The Navy base next-door to NATO southern headquarters included a , , several chain restaurants, and a travel agency.
All these DoD facilities were nestled among densely packed Italian neighborhoods. There was some military-sponsored housing available but not enough for the full community. As a result, many families rented housing from local Italian landlords.
AsI was in a leadership role that came with a myriad of nebulous responsibilities. One of these was “sponsorship,” helping incoming US military families adjust and settle into their life in southern Italy. Sponsorship generally included meeting new arrivals at the airport and settling them into temporary housing. Then over the next few weeks helping them navigate the new arrivals bureaucracy, finding permanent housing, and receiving their household goods shipments.
A New Sponsorship
About eighteen months into my tour, I was assigned to sponsor an Air Force family. The military person was John with rank of E-6. His family included wife Linda, and three lovely girls ranging in age from three, eight, and thirteen. The oldest was from Linda’s first marriage, the two youngest were with John.
Linda was native Thai, an American resident but not naturalized citizen. As my native Filipina then-wife had just become a naturalized citizen the two ladies had shared interests and hit it off well. John was a communications tech so we had as much of a common background as Navy and Air Force people could have.
Befitting my sponsor role, I spent several weeks helping the family get settled. We had them over our house for dinner several times and stayed in touch after they were settled in. I enjoyed their company. However, there was something that seemed “off” about John and Linda. I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me. I sensed warnings of something not right.
John quickly found a rental house which happened to be very isolated from other US military families. Not entirely uncommon, but neither John nor Linda spoke any Italian and Linda’s English was limited. Even around our area with a large American presence there weren’t a lot of Italians who spoke passable English.
With only one car, that John normally used for his commuting, his family had limited transportation. There was a DoD shuttle bus running from nearby military housing to the Navy base, but the nearest pickup was almost one mile from their house. Their two oldest daughters had to walk almost one mile to the US DoD school bus pickup.
An oddity of American life in Naples of that era was our lack of telephones. Due to the byzantine bureaucracy of the Italian phone company, most Americans went without home telephones. John’s family also didn’t have a home telephone which added another layer of family isolation.
Drinking or Not
One time we invited the family over for Sunday dinner and Linda arrived looking haggard. I commented on it and John started laughing, saying she “had too much to drink the previous evening.” Linda looked momentarily angry then laughed about it, and their girls giggled. I remember feeling surprised hearing Linda had been drunk, as she always refused wine at our dinners.
Another time, John needed a ride home as his car was being serviced. He asked me to swing by the base Burger King drive-thru to pick up food to take home. It seemed like, from what I saw and heard from him order, there wasn’t enough for his entire family. On the way home we were talking about our families and John made an offhand comment about his wife “sometimes, you just need to slap them around a bit.” He had a weird smile while saying this. I felt spooked and changed the topic.
Next The Reveal