God knew the need for humankind to get away from the stresses of work, study, and chauffeuring – even for a week or two.

Our family vacations were of necessity tied into the two week training sessions for incipient military chaplains. The man in question had a generous month he could take from parish duties but could scarcely afford to utilize the time. And no sane relative or friend honestly relished the idea of eight extra bodies to house and feed for a fortnight.

But the U.S. Army, bless them, gladly paid the preacher to trek from Minnesota to Virginia so he could sit in a classroom, slog doggedly on hikes, and learn whatever was left to know about assembling a rifle. Mostly useless knowledge anyway as a military chaplain never carried a weapon. Per Diem covered the cost of traveling in a POV.* So we loaded the smallest RV ever seen, attached it to a car packed to the max with children and vittles, and off we went for two weeks every hot sultry August.

Most often we bumped along the pike to Ft. Eustis, Virginia. It was ideal, with approved campgrounds, two outdoor swimming pools, and all the amenities the Fort had to offer a family.

We vacationed in Virginia so often our kids later joked a road was not built that did not first lead to Ft. Eustis, even if our final destination was the Grand Canyon, several states and a gazillion miles away. We were such regular fixtures there that to this day I receive glossy catalogs from Jefferson’s Monticello and enrollment literature from William and Mary College!

While Dad and the Army bumbled through the proscribed manuals, the rest of his brood spent comfortable hours in the air conditioned library, tried our hands at the craft shop or lazed away the hours by the swimming pool. We had snacks and drinks at the outdoor bar and meals at a picnic table.

Evenings were for exploring Colonial Williamsburg – a touristy attraction that included a free bus that traveled all around the interesting town, more air conditioned comfort with free movies of the area, and brochures to sites that could be explored at Busch Gardens. In its infancy the place was ridiculously inexpensive and therefore do-able for a military family. Never mind that a train chugged through the campground noisily every midnight and the one pool, a sand bottomed marvel, was freezing cold for most of each week.

It was fun. It was educational. It was a delightful vacation for Midwest transplants. A respite from the ordinary.

God knew. A legacy was begun.


* POV is Private Officer’s Vehicle for those of you not versed in military-speak.


What family traditions do you carry on each summer? Leave us a comment.

And if you aren’t outside enjoying time with family and friends, you might be in an almost empty office, catching up on some of those important-but-not-urgent tasks, like filing, or thinking about your legacy giving program, or even making your own will. Read Dave’s story about what happened on a slow summer day when someone showed up in the fundraising office ready to take action.

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