A Farewell to the Navy
This week marks Sean's last in the Navy. After 7.5 years as a military officer (and a year-long resignation process), he will transition into civilian life. It sounds simple to any outsider. It seems simple. Unless you, too, have traveled this path, you can't truly understand the weight of this change, nor the implications of it on our daily life. At 31, he will begin a brand-new chapter as he takes on a new career. This isn’t just a job shift; it’s a shift in every way imaginable – from the way he dresses every day, to being able to grow out his hair or donning a five-o-clock shadow, this is a new thing altogether – a bold, brave new start for him and for us. No more planning vacations around duty and watch schedules, no more wondering whether his deployment will be extended, no more guessing where we’ll be in four years. It’s freedom met with uncertainties of a different kind. What kind of job will he get? How do his distinct skill sets translate into the corporate world? Does Mr. Recruiter understand his resume? What will we do with all of this time together?
Admittedly, I didn't understand much about this life myself, until I was swept up in it. I was next to Sean when he took his oath. I waited by the mailbox to get his handwritten letters from Officer Candidate School (OCS). I was giddy in the crowd at Naval Station Newport when he gave his first salute. I waited with anticipation, then dread, then total impatience when he was gone for 6, then 8, then 10 long months the first year of our marriage. So many of those moments feel like they happened just yesterday; it's hard to believe such a huge chunk of our life together has been marked by the Navy. As this chapter closes, I find myself reflecting on it. I find myself in awe of how Sean has navigated his time in the military, of how he has cradled me through it, of how much stronger I was made (we were made) because of it.
The past 7.5 years of Sean's career have been marked with a multitude of successes through which he has made me so proud. He is, in every way (and pardon my cliche), an officer and a gentleman. He is strength personified and committed to a fault. Not being one to boast, he hasn't displayed his two Commendation Medals (one earned during his first tour, a rarity for a junior officer); he doesn't talk about his #1 ranks; he doesn't pay much attention to the ribbons and medals he has secured over the years; and he cringes when I tell him he's my hero. I couldn't do what he has done. Most of you wouldn't. And that's okay, because if everyone was up to the call, then it wouldn't carry the distinction and honor it has held for us. With all of its ups and downs, its sacrifices and uncertainties, I'd do it all over again.
This is where I tell you that being a military wife is not for the faint of heart. I give myself full credit for co-navigating this journey. I've had to be independent, patient, strong, flexible and understanding, among many other things – characteristics one picks up along the way. From treks across the Atlantic to deployments in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf to weeks-long sails and planning conferences, "long-distance" isn't a metric for military couples, it becomes a way of life. And communicating across such distances isn't something bridged by FaceTime or Skype. It entails a lot of writing, a lot of waiting, a mixture of a heck of a lot of both. And lots of trust. And lots and lots of waiting.
In the 5 years that Sean and I have been married, we've spent approximately 2.5 years apart. Sit on that for a moment. That time encompasses missed birthdays and other such important dates. It encompasses the hardest time of my life as a grieving daughter and caretaker. It encompasses the phone call one makes – first to your husband's ship's emergency line, then to the Red Cross – when your second parent dies. It encompasses the 24 hours on your own as he's generously sent home to grieve alongside you. It's time apart reflecting a ton, making weekend plans with supportive friends who totally get it (and forgiving those who simply do not). It's also time that encompasses a lot of planning for making the time together so much more rewarding and well-spent. It's understanding that no matter the location, we're always moving in the same direction.
This week, our proverbial Navy ship sails, and we settle into a new course. Excited to face this new horizon with a strong perspective 7.5 years in the making. Thank you to everyone who has played a role in this chapter and who has supported our walk into the next one. Not everyone gets it, but those of you who do sure have made it all so much better and richer for us.
Here's to fair winds and following seas to come...