Meet Your Board Members: Circe Olson Woessner, Executive Director–DODDS Brat, Army Wife & Army Mom,Posted: September 1, 2012
Over the past few months, we’ve introduced you to our board members. This month, meet Circe Olson Woessner, Executive Director.
Circe Olson was born in Evreux, France to American parents teaching at the US School on Dreux Air Force Base. When she was four, her parents moved to Karlsruhe, Germany, where her mother, Joan, got a job teaching first grade and her father, Allen, worked for the Directorate USDESEA.
Circe learned from her friends what it meant to be a military child, “Although I never physically moved, my friends did, and so I was always saying goodbye to someone—and as their dads continued trough their assignments, I welcomed my same friends back three or four years later. Many of my friends had German moms, and their dads came back to Germany so they could be close to their mom’s families for a tour. So I’d catch up with my elementary friends in junior high and then in late high school.”
That must have been foreshadowing …
“I met my husband, Bill, while attending the University of Maryland, Munich Campus, and we married at the end of our sophomore year. Our wedding was a curious blending of cultures and customs. Our invitations were in three languages to reflect the nationalities of our guests, and our wedding celebrations were in two countries. We had our civil wedding in Karlsruhe (Germany) and the church wedding was in Wissembourg (France).”
The newlyweds completed their schooling at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia, and moved out to southern Indiana and started a family.
“Both Bill and I missed Europe,” Circe admits, “And it seemed the only way to get back there was for Bill to join the Army.” So in 1987, Bill shipped off to Basic Training and Officer’s Candidate School, and Circe and their young son, Erik, went to stay with Circe’s parents who were living in Heidelberg, Germany.
Circe and Erik joined Bill at his OCS graduation, and they started their Army Career at Ft. Sill, OK.
“I remember going to classes to learn how to be a good officer’s wife—how to host a tea, dress properly and be a good support for my husband. It was so strange for me at the time—especially since I didn’t really like to do any of the things that I was told officers’ wives ‘do’.”
There was also a learning curve. “Once, I parked in a ‘General Officers’ parking space. I figured that as a 2LT, Bill was about the most general of all the officers—it wasn’t like he was anything important…” She was soon told of her error and after that stayed clear of the prime parking spots.
The Woessners soon moved back to Germany, to the 3/11 ACR based in Bad Hersfeld, near the East German border. It was a hard but great tour. The troops were in the field 280 days of the year, but the Cav wives were a tough and resilient bunch.
Circe and her neighbor, Laura, would pack up their kids-Laura had two girls—and they’d explore the back roads and small towns around Hessen. It was a great experience for all.
The Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989 and East Germans streamed across the border. “It was great to be part of history,” Circe recalls. “I taught English to eastern European immigrants, and at the same time, did some PR work—undoing years of Soviet brainwashing about how horrible Americans were.”
After Germany, the Woessners—now with baby Iain—moved to Redstone Arsenal (AL), Ft. Jackson (SC) and Ft. Buchanan, Puerto Rico.
“Up until Puerto Rico, I had never had a full-time job. I’d worked as a substitute teacher or part-time for the youth center or library on post, but I finally got a job teaching for the Defense Department school on Roosevelt Roads Naval Station.”
Life in the tropics was interesting—the Woessners survived hurricanes—one of which, Georges—left them without power, water or phone for six weeks, a bout of denge fever, and wild lizards and huge spiders roaming through the house.
“Puerto Rico was great-we went snorkeling and scuba diving, we bought a condo on the beach and a motor boat. We cruised to all the islands and we loved the island life.”
Bill got transferred to the Washington DC area, and the family enjoyed living in southern Maryland, soaking in US history and enjoying the Chesapeake Bay.
In 2001,The family moved to Kirtland Air Force Base where Bill assumed command of the 21st EOD detachment. Circe got a job with the Department of Air Force (thanks, in part, to Spouse Preference). Bill declared that he was done moving—New Mexico was THE Place to retire.
In 2008, son Erik, followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Army and within a year, shipped off to Iraq.
“It was while he was overseas, I got the idea to start the Museum of the American Military Family. It’s a lifestyle, a calling –service, actually–that is hard to describe and for non-military people to understand. Military families are a unique, proud group and their stories should be told. Because in reality—Service members and their families serve together.”