In protecting the freedoms of Americans as members of the U.S. Army, Harold and Vandy Lough received a first-hand look at citizens in another country yearning to escape the grips of communism.
The Loughs spent time in Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall and watched as people embraced the opportunity of a better life once the wall was toppled in 1989.
“The East Germans, they came over and bombarded all the stores,” said Vandy. “It was like they were finally free.”
Added Harold, “When the East Germans came over to West Germany, they wanted the same rights immediately. They didn’t want the low wages anymore. It was like a sympathy move. We’ve been in East Germany. Feel sorry for us. They came across the border with a sense of entitlement.”
As America pauses to recognize our military service members on Veterans Day, the Loughs are a unique couple. They are both Army veterans.
“The military is different than any other job,” said Harold. “Once you sign your name, you belong to the military. It’s not a 9 to 5 job. It’s seven days a week.”
Harold served for 21 years, which included three tours in Germany. Vandy served for three years. They got married in 1986 while they were both stationed at Fort Hood in Texas.
“We got married in the front yard over our neighbor’s septic tank,” said Vandy.
Harold explained why. “It was the only spot where the grass was green.”
Harold said there were times of “heightened security” while he was in Germany. According to historical reports, at least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under, or around the Berlin Wall.
Escape from East Germany was not impossible as it’s estimated about 5,000 people found a way past security. Some did so by hot air balloon, by crawling through sewers, or by jumping from speeding cars.
“There were some places you couldn’t cross by plane, train or automobile and make it alive,” said Harold.
During Vandy’s time in the service, she was once mislabeled as a man and assigned as a grunt in an all-male unit. The duties of a grunt include walking alongside tanks.
“You try to say on the non-fire side of the tank,” said Vandy, indicating the tank would serve as protection from enemy fire. She said she was transferred out of that unit when she pointed out she wasn’t a man.
Among Harold’s specialties, he was heavily involved in nuclear chemical and biological warfare.
“I dealt with prevention, how it’s dispersed, and what you’re going to do to survive it,” said Harold, who added much of his knowledge remains classified and he does not discuss it.
Harold retired from the military at age 39. He’s now 61 and Vandy is 62.
They moved from the West Coast to Texas to Warren County, where they’ve had ties since 1993. Among their jobs after the military, Harold owned a trucking company and Vandy worked as a guard at a maximum security prison.
They continue to be involved in military organizations as Harold is a member of American Legion Post 173, and Vandy is a member of the Ladies Auxiliary.