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Goodbye Mayberry: A Farewell to Fort Leavenworth

Photo Credit: Jennifer Valentin-Schultz http://jvschultzphotography.com

Military life can sometimes feel like a never-ending series of puddle jumps. Two years here, one year there—even less, sometimes. Making the effort to ingratiate oneself in a new community often feels pointless. And there’s no denying the barrage of negativity that attaches itself to nearly every duty station.

Nearly.

There’s something different about Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, though—something special. 

Although it hosts plenty of long-term residents, its claim to fame is its Command and General Staff College: a revolving door that molds Captains into Majors in less than a year. Fort Leavenworth’s high turnover rate should render it a mere blip on the radar for seasoned military families; a quick move with little emotional investment.

Should.

And yet, that’s not what happens.

Not for us. Not for our friends. Not for most who get to enjoy its charms; its history; its simplicity.

Fort Leavenworth is a Mayberry in a world of metropolises. It’s a reminder to slow down during a year that flies by. And for military families who rarely get such a pleasure, Fort Leavenworth is more than a puddle jump: it’s an honest-to-goodness home.

Photo Credit: Hayleigh Alexander

This place pulls you in the moment you arrive. People are friendly and warm. Friendships form seemingly overnight as moving-truck nightmares and housing kerfuffles force neighbors to lean on one another: for air mattresses, for sugar, for a much-needed drink. And nobody ever disappoints.

Kids greet each other—one moment timid and unsure, the next, joyful and confident. Time is short. They’ve done this before. So off they run; forever friendships born of a shared ice cream cone. 

They spend weeks crisscrossing every inch of their new neighborhood, darting across streets with reckless excitement. Parents yell at them to pay attention! and look both ways! Eventually, they figure it out. Most of them, at least. 

There are wine nights and block parties, bunco games and baby showers. Neighborhoods here are tight-knit but not exclusionary. No favor goes undone, no act of giving goes unappreciated. 

Its sticky summer harkens back to the innocence of childhood—all lightning bugs and bare feet.

Autumn arrives in a flash of brilliance—leaves ablaze with the kind of color and crunch one might expect from a Kinkade painting. These are porch days, where the kids never once ask for an ipad and the cleaning can wait.

Winter is cold and sometimes dreary, but the promise of snow is ever-present. It is peppered with snowball fights and carefully-crafted forts. Soon enough, the ice gives way to warmth and spring emerges. Deer scamper across post, wild turkeys appear, and children begin darting into the street, once again. 

Fort LeavenworthIt’s all so idyllic—a place rich in history and surrounded by nature. The basements full of toys go untouched and technology feels a little less omnipresent. There’s a sense here that’s both familiar and intangible, a simplicity that feels lost outside its gates. 

Fort Leavenworth takes me back to summers spent playing kick-the-can and neighbors who were like family, calling to mind a time when everything felt safe. I’m glad my own children will know that feeling, however fleeting it might be.

This sweet little town, this patch of Midwestern goodness, is an experience everyone deserves. And yet, it’s more than some black-and-white nostalgia. It’s inclusive and welcoming; the multitude of flags dotting our street speak to a more modern Mayberry—one that both looks to the past and forges ahead.

This is a colorful place, alive with culture and new experiences. It means your kids will make friends who don’t speak their language. It means you might find yourself drinking a margarita on Cinco de Mayo while wishing your neighbor a happy Ramadan. It means sharing laughs and memories with people who come from all over the globe. 

And it will be amazing.

When I look back on this place, I’ll see my daughter twirling on a tree swing and my son on an imaginary tiger hunt with his best friend. Every November, I’ll think of the blizzard that welcomed our last little bundle into the world. We’ve imprinted ourselves here, like many before and many to come.

I’m sorry to say goodbye to this special place. And though our time here was brief, it was invaluable.

The magic of this particular Mayberry is that, unlike its television counterpart, this town’s story remains unscripted and unending—each season bringing with it a new, exciting cast of characters. 

So as the moving trucks begin to fight over valuable curb space in the days ahead—indeed, as I sit amongst a pile of cardboard boxes ready to be loaded in mere hours—let me be the first to say, ‘welcome home.’ You will absolutely love it here. Just be sure to invest in a good back-up camera. 

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18 Responses to Goodbye Mayberry: A Farewell to Fort Leavenworth

  1. Avatar
    Nancy H May 28, 2019 at 2:39 pm #

    You nailed it! I am glad it has not changed much since our time there. Now our son is heading there with his family & I can’t wait to visit them.

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    Kathy May 29, 2019 at 8:30 pm #

    Awwww! This made me miss out days in Leavenworth. We will treasure those friendships forever!

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    Katie May 30, 2019 at 8:32 am #

    So true!! We were able to spend three years in “Mayberry” and loved every minute of it!

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    John E Miller May 30, 2019 at 11:01 am #

    It is magic and your prose caught a great glimpse if it. Thank You!

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    Curt Pangracs May 30, 2019 at 12:04 pm #

    All of the reasons you shared are why we stayed. 24 years and counting. Though we never lived on-post, we have had and do have many friends who have and do, and we both work on-post. It’s just an awesome place to raise kids. Both of our boys were born here and went through the school system on-post until high school, and they are better for it. Thanks for this. Too often the actual flavor of the area gets ignored.

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    pcb May 30, 2019 at 12:58 pm #

    I had this experience as a high school sophomore. It’s the only high school (I went to four) where I made friends that I continue to contact. In fact, I went halfway across the country to the class of ’70’s 45th reunion (my first at any school) a few years ago and was able to actually BE with those people and revisit the town and base. Others, like me, didn’t stay long enough to graduate there but the year we were there was long enough to make those friendships.

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    Jeff Coulter May 30, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

    I can’t agree more! I was blessed and got to spend a full tour at Fort Leavenworth as the commander of HHC, US Disciplinary Barracks. I spent 27 years in the Army, and Fort Leavenworth was my favorite duty station. I’d go back in a minute.

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    Cherie Hartline May 31, 2019 at 10:39 am #

    A deep breath in a sometimes frantic military life.
    Our kids lived in a tiny house (now gone) down the street from where their Dad played as a 3rd grader!

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    Kenny May 31, 2019 at 11:46 am #

    My wife and I ran the kids wrestling club for 14 years.. We seen many come and many go. We only get the kids about 5 months. In them 5 months we met more parents who became friends and watch young couldn’t tie their shoe kid into wrestlers.At the end of the season party was heart breaking because we were losing friends and wrestlers that we founght every match with. My wife and I enjoyed those 14 years and only quit because out youngest started high school wrestling. I lived on the Fort for 6 years worked as a teenagers there. I was to happy to read this story.

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    Andrea May 31, 2019 at 12:55 pm #

    I was able to enjoy 6 years on Ft. Leavenworth as a young teen and then young adult. My father was the commander of CGSC and was able to retire from this wonderful place. I miss it and love getting pictures from my fellow military brat friends that I made while there. One day I would love to go back.

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    Pat Whitnel May 31, 2019 at 1:12 pm #

    My father was stationed there twice, first to attend CGSC & again as I completed my junior & senior years at LHS (‘68). It’s good to hear that what my family experienced is still being shared with and by those of recent years. For 3 summers I worked for Allied Van Lines, moving families in in August and out in June. I have vivid memories of sledding down the hill across the street the General’s quarters, as we lived downhill from there, long before central AC was installed in the 1900 styled duplex quarters. Friendships developed with the military and local families are steadfast over fifty years later, in spite of how we have dispersed our locations, as the attendance at 50 year reunion reflected. This community will always hold a warm place in my heart.

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    Melissa Bower May 31, 2019 at 9:09 pm #

    Welcome home. You can come back anytime. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

    — Leavenworth

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    Debby Edwards June 1, 2019 at 11:53 am #

    I could have not said it better! We are all better people who have experienced this magical, loving Mayberry! We thank God we still have ties there so we can go “home” when we need another portion of sweetness of Ft. Leavenworth!

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    Nancy Bauder June 1, 2019 at 12:50 pm #

    As a local (and a city official and International sponsor) I participate in many events at Fort Leavenworth every year. have to say that I always look forward to seeing the new families and sad to see them leave again. Growing up here meant that I have made friends all around the world over my lifetime. Experiences of those who come here are so enriching to our community and I treasure all of you.

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    Linda Doran June 1, 2019 at 9:13 pm #

    What a wonderful read! My family spent four years on the post and four years off the post. I treasure all my memories of Fort Leavenworth (and Leavenworth) It truly was the best place to form lasting friendships and experiences that I will hold in my heart forever. Fort Leavenworth surely is a type of Mayberry.

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    Gayle Bergman June 2, 2019 at 1:38 am #

    As a lifetime civilian living in Leavenworth this post makes me fill good. It’s good to see the positive side of your military experiences. I know most of your comments are referring to the post itself vs Leav.- but feel Leav gets the benefit of your stay here. I have nothing to compare it to but I also feel like it’s a Beautiful post. The National Cemeteries-including the Leavenworth National Cemetery are lovely. I’ve grown up here and have worked at the local community hospitals and have met many many “ army kids” while I was in school, and mostly wives through my job. My BFF is the wife of a retired Air Force Military Pilot. I used to be on the post often as a teen- not much anymore. The City of Leavenworth definitely benefits from Fort Leavenworth. Hope all the new folks have a great stay. And Thanks got your service and sacrifices.

    Best Wishes

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    Marianna Lee Wiley Jump June 6, 2019 at 8:34 am #

    I grew up in Leavenworth from age 6 until I married. Ft Leavenworth and all its residents were a big part of our lives, and I loved that. I was friends with kids from all over the US and the world and was so enriched by knowing them both in the short term, and many even now-I just saw many at my 50th class reunion. I worked as a clerk at the USDB on post and met my husband there; we are still married 47 years. I also worked several years at Armed Forces Insurance. Everything in this wonderful article is true-the history, the beautiful fireworks, the beauty of the well kept grounds-all important and noteworthy. The cemetery is also a sacred place, as beautiful and well maintained as Arlington. My best friend resides there, his life lost in Vietnam. Ft Leavenworth/Leavenworth remain in my heart forever.

  18. Avatar
    Terry Beckwith August 3, 2019 at 9:15 am #

    Wonderful memories from living here from 1966-1966. 1967-1969,

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