Still Holding Hands: A 73-Year Military Love Story

George Morris, a retired Army colonel, is currently receiving end-of-life care at Belvoir Hospital, where his wife of 73 years, Eloise, is also a patient. (Photo: U.S. Army/Reese Brown.)
George Morris, a retired Army colonel, is currently receiving end-of-life care at Belvoir Hospital, where his wife of 73 years, Eloise, is also a patient. (Photo: U.S. Army/Reese Brown.)

An elderly military couple lying side-by-side in a hospital room -- an exception to Fort Belvoir Community Hospital's policy, and a testament to the power of long military love. "After seeing me in a country school play in Kentucky when I was about 13, George went home and told his mother, 'I met the girl I'm gonna marry. I looked her over well and I couldn't find anything wrong with her, 'sides one crooked tooth," said Eloise, gently patting George's swollen, age-spotted hand. On their first date, George and Eloise shared a picnic next to a creek in their hometown. "I brought the blanket and was unpacking the food when I saw George carrying a large box with a handle," said Eloise. "I had never seen anything like it, but when he sat it down and turned the crank, a beautiful little tune came out. It was a portable record player and George cranked it the whole afternoon as we listened to the song -- 'Sweet Eloise.' The song, performed by jazz musician Glenn Miller, was popular during World War II- a war that would soon separate George and Eloise for the first of many times. "George had only ever wanted to be a pilot," recalled Eloise. "So when he graduated, he applied to cadet school and was accepted. His training was in Texas and I was still in school in Kentucky, but as soon as I graduated I went down there and we were married." George would go on to serve 30 years as a pilot in the Army, flying missions from England and Germany during WWII, both Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as many missions in between. "The military was good to us," said Eloise. "Oh sure, we weren't without struggle, but we enjoyed the adventure - even when things didn't go as planned." When a military family prepares for a move, even today, it's typical for an outside transit company to pack and deliver their belongings to the next destination. "During one move, none of our furniture had arrived when we got to our new home," said Eloise with a laugh. "We didn't have a single sheet or anything. That night, we stuffed a duffle bag with old newspapers and used it as a pillow. I don't think we slept at all, but we sure did laugh all night." Eloise and George eventually expanded their family, adding two boys George Jr. and Phillip. "George was gone a lot," said Eloise about those early days as a new mother. "We were stationed in Tokyo and all over the United States, and a lot of the time it was just the boys and I, but I didn't mind. I was a den mother for their scout troops and I taught them how to play baseball. I was the pitcher, one of the boys was the batter and the other was the catcher. Our German Sheppard played in the outfield and she could catch the balls better than just about anyone. We made a good team... but still, we would listen for George's call sign to be announced so that we knew he was home safely. We could all breathe a little easier then." Despite George's frequent travels and demanding career, he always put his family first, said Eloise. "At one duty station, we lived down the road from George's general. He wanted George to come with him to a foreign base to create an air traffic control station. George was a colonel at the time, and the general promised him he'd make him a general, too, if he'd agree to the assignment," said Eloise. "George turned him down. I was afraid he'd regret it, but he never did. He wanted to come back to the States to be near his parents and spend more time with the boys and I. George loved his country. He truly did. But he also loved his family... probably even a little bit more." When George retired in the 70s, Eloise and he settled in Northern Virginia, enjoying time with their two granddaughters, two grandsons, and eventually three great-grandchildren. They still reside in the area today. "When I look back on our life together, I feel very happy with the time we've spent and how we've spent it," said Eloise. "The military, raising our family, our faith... all of those things are worthwhile pursuits. In Kentucky, kids used to grow up fast, but I have never regretted getting married early. We have never had a knock-down, drag out fight. We've had disagreements of course, but our life has been very good together. George is a good man." Now both in their 90s, George is currently receiving end-of-life care at Belvoir Hospital, where Eloise is also a patient. Although the exception to policy that allows them to share this room is a gift for them, it's an even bigger one for staff, said Army Maj. Elizabeth Jaurequi, chief nurse officer in charge of Medical Telemetry at Belvoir Hospital and one of the Morris' medical providers. "When you walk into that room, you just feel love," said Jaurequi. "Getting to hear Ms. Eloise speak about their life together and getting to see their love is a privilege, as is the opportunity to care for them both."

Show Full Article

Related Topics

Family and Spouse Marriage