EUROPE -The world watched from afar as terror unfolded in Paris, France on Friday night, but for American military families stationed abroad the events hit very close to home.
Chenille Johnson was in Paris just six days before the attacks. An Army wife of 13 years, her family received orders to Germany in 2014. Johnson jumped on the chance to travel to France after the opportunity was offered by a local military organization.
“I wanted to do something different for my birthday and the USO was having a trip (to) Paris, tour, dinner at a restaurant, and then a city boat tour,” she said. “I figured this would be great for us as a family and for my children to get to experience what many only hear about.”
Johnson described the city as breathtaking, walking through the architecture and monuments felt like being back in her college art course. When the attacks unfolded on Friday, she initially heard the news from her husband, whose phone kept ringing. As she realized what was happening, a sadness came over her along with disbelief as to how the magical place she just brought her children to was targeted.
“I felt eerie because we were just in Paris a few days prior,” Johnson said. “I thought, why would someone want to cause this beautiful city such heartache and pain?”
In the Center of It All
The investigation into the attacks has taken officials to Belgium, similar to developments that occurred earlier in the year after another attack happened at the French headquarters of Charlie Hebdo – a satirical newspaper. Military wife Kelly Henry, whose husband works for NATO Command, moved to Belgium last year. She said she could hear sirens from her home in the days following Friday’s events.
“I was absolutely shocked and saddened by these horrific attacks. Paris is just two hours away and we have visited it often during our time here,” Henry said. “The loss of life and number of injured is heartbreaking.”
Henry – a Navy veteran, studied in Paris for two months after graduating from the Naval Academy. She said she was eager to introduce her children to the “city of lights” so they took a trip there shortly after arriving in Europe. Although the current security situation is full of so many unknowns, Henry says the opportunity to live overseas has been wonderful and she plans to return to Paris in the coming months.
Henry added that military families continue to receive security support and ongoing communications updates from both US and host nation organizations.
Paris Traveled Banned
In the wake of Friday’s attacks, United State European Command (EUCOM) has implemented travel restrictions for Department of Defense (DoD) personnel and their families. All unofficial travel to Paris is prohibited, according to a statement obtained by Military Spouse from EUCOM. It goes on to say the policy applies to military personnel, DoD civilian employees, contractors and command-sponsored dependents and family members. “For those DoD personnel who desire to travel elsewhere in France it will require the approval of a general officer/flag officer (or SES equivalent).”
Additionally, the US Embassy in France’s website is advising American citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks in Europe will continue as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.”
For military families stationed overseas, the most current guidance from EUCOM can be found at http://eucom.dodlive.mil/.
pc: Kelly Henry