Red & Marilyn beginning the Camino de Santiago.

Wednesday evening, July 3rd, 1968, Marilyn Ann Huggins and I were married in Violet, Texas. Tomorrow it will be 635 weeks, 19,357 days, over 460,000 hours, 27.87 million minutes, or 1.67 billion seconds since we became man and wife. We got married on a Wednesday because the next day was July 4th, and it gave us a four-day weekend. We went to HemisFair San Antonio after our honeymoon in Rockport, Texas.

HemisFair celebrated the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio. We have had seven or eight more honeymoons since the original one. I believe the eighth honeymoon was dedicated to retracing our honeymoon trail from Violet to Rockport to San Antonio. So, yes, we went to the HemisFair Tower after forty-plus years and had dinner and a couple of drinks.

We asked many of our friends if they knew of any other married couples on a Wednesday. The answer always came back – NO. Then, at my wife’s parents’ 50th Anniversary party, one of their friends brought a newspaper clipping from their wedding day in Corpus Christi. It turned out they were married on a Wednesday morning. We had never asked them the question of knowing anyone married on a Wednesday.

On the honeymoon #8 (I think it was #8), we discussed walking the Camino de Santiago. After a week of discussion, we committed to buying equipment, training as much as we could, and to walk the Camino de Santiago in 2016. My wife had recovered from months of chemotherapy and weeks of radiation therapy and had a clean bill of health from her doctors.

We bought shoes and began walking – almost daily. The Camino de Santiago is 500 miles, mainly across northern Spain. In late August, we started in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, and 30 days later, we finished in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We celebrated our 70th birthdays on the Camino.

In 1968, my best friend and I went to NAS Dallas, Texas, to take the Naval Aviation Aptitude test and physical. He wanted to be a Navy pilot and drug me along with him. My father was a Navy pilot. The long story made very short because he failed the physical and had a 4F deferment from the military. I passed and entered Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, as an Aviation Officer Candidate.

I said, “I do,” to the Navy on a Sunday afternoon and “I do,” to my wife the following Wednesday. I lasted 31+ years with the Navy and now 53 years with my beautiful, loving bride!
My original plan was to graduate from college with a degree in chemistry and work in that field.

Unfortunately, not all dreams come to fruition. I graduated with a degree in chemistry; however, an invitation to Vietnam was awaiting graduation. I have asked many audiences to think about their first love to open to my presentations. My first love was chemistry – and I use it daily in my writings and periodically in my speaking gigs.

We spent several months in various Training Commands from Pensacola, Florida, Corpus Christi, Texas, Dallas, Texas, San Diego, California, and Moffett Field, California, before being assigned to Barbers Point Naval Air Station, Hawaii. It seemed I spent almost as much time in Hawaii as I did deploy to the western Pacific.

Our daughter was born in Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, California, just before leaving the States for Hawaii. Our son was born in Tripler Army Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii, just before my active-duty tour was over, and we returned to the States. I spent the next twenty years in the Reserves – mostly flying antisubmarine missions and then on staffs until an opportunity arose for me to return to active duty.

The first thirty years saw few anniversary parties on the same day as our wedding due to the summer tours of duty deployed outside the United States for two weeks at a time. Many of those years saw two two-week active-duty periods. However, we did have some memorable anniversary events on the actual day – like one spent in East Berlin for our 30th wedding anniversary.

I spent several months that ended up being a couple of years on active duty in New York City (Governors Island). Marilyn would join me for several weeks, and we spent a lot of time sightseeing, going to plays, and eating all over NYC. After that, I spent the next two years on active duty in Alameda, CA. Again, Marilyn joined me for a couple of months, and as she was leaving, I came down with food poisoning. It delayed her trip home, and I was glad to have her there to nurse me back to health.

My last two years on active duty were spent in Stuttgart, Germany. Marilyn joined me for several months. We traveled extensively around Europe. I believe she got to 24 countries while she was there. Our Command (United States European Command) at Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany, encouraged everyone to get out and see as much of Europe as they could. They gave us a three-day weekend once a month and added an extra day on the existing three-day holidays so we could get out and see the world. We took advantage of it nearly every weekend.

I retired from the Navy in 1999 and reentered civilian employment in the Houston area. Little did I know that my employer would offer me a retirement package I could not refuse in eight years. We traveled a lot until the pandemic stopped everything.

We did many SpaceA flights with the military and visited one of my sisters in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, several times. The trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago was SpaceA over and back. Our last trip outside the United States was to the Dominican Republic. We came home and a few months later were under house arrest due to the virus.

In our 53 years, Marilyn and I have lived and visited many places. Marilyn chalked up 30 countries, and the Navy helped me get to 61. Great memories include Hong Kong, Tahiti (Bora Bora), Peru (Machu Picchu and more), Hawaii (lived there three years), and Europe (too many memories to list). We have survived the pandemic nicely and will be back on the travel trail when it is safe.

I was asked today at a networking event about what I am thankful for in my life. I answered, ‘true love going both directions!’ We love to be with each other and rarely go anywhere alone. On the eve of our 53rd wedding anniversary, I decided to write about something different than health and wellness.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –



6 Responses

  1. Red, sharing a life of adventure with someone who fulfills you, certainly is at the very crux of health and wellness, especially for more than half a century! Happy Anniversary to you both.

  2. What an absolutely beautiful story! Congratulations to both of you on your 53rd Wedding Anniversary! Barbara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *