For the past thirteen years, you have supported me through three 6-month deployments plus countless other times of separation that didn't count as "deployments" because they were less than 56 days long. Okay, so you weren't a military spouse all thirteen years, but you supported me nonetheless.
When we were just dating, I loved the way you would bring me dinner on the boat when I had duty. It was back before 9-11 and you could just show a bag of Boston Market food to the gate sentry and say, "My boyfriend is the duty officer on the PROVIDENCE," and the sentry would say, "enjoy your dinner, ma'am," and let you drive on down to the pier.
We were engaged when I went on deployment to the Persian Gulf. With our wedding date set for the month after we got back from deployment, you had to make a lot of wedding plans without me, and mourn the loss of my dear friend Mr. C - your dad. You had your first experience dealing with sending an AMCROSS message to the boat.
After growing up your entire life in Boston and only venturing as far as New York for college, we were married and packed up all our belongings and moved 3,000 miles across country to Monterey, California. Three time zones away from your family and friends, and waiting for your car to be delivered on a truck while I was driving our other car off to school every day, you got to experience the loneliness of a Navy wife in a new duty station.
The timing of starting our family didn't exactly turn out according to the plan we had in mind. Our eldest son was born just weeks before I graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School and we packed up all our belongings for yet another coast-to-coast, 3,000 mile PCS move. Poor ES in his car seat did so well for so many hours per day in the car, but each night when he had reached his limit, he started what we called "the rusty pliers scream," (because he was screaming as if someone was pulling his toe nails out with a pair of rusty pliers).
We were only in Groton for 5 months of SOAC, and there was a shortage of on-base housing. They held a lottery to decide who got to have the on-base housing. We didn't win, so we had to find a place in town. That summer, while I sat in the air conditioning at sub school, you suffered through 100+ degree temperatures INSIDE our very small, very temporary apartment, improvising your own air conditioning system by placing a big bowl of ice in front of the fan.
Orders came for us to make another coast-to-coast PCS move, this time to San Diego. From 3,000 miles away, we shopped for a house via the internet and placed a bid on a house we had never seen before with our own eyes.
I often joke that I would have liked to actually LIVE in San Diego again. It was right after 9-11, and I was out at sea 50% of my department head tour. The other 50% of the time, I went to work before the sun came up, and I went home after the sun went down, so I didn't see much of San Diego. I went to WESTPAC three times in three years.
Our family planning worked out the way we hoped it would this time around, although that meant you were pregnant for the duration of my next deployment. Nothing like chasing a 2-year old around while pregnant and your husband is on deployment, right? Then, to make matters worse, the southern California brush fires came within a couple of miles of our house, and the ash fell like gray snow. At least, so I hear, because I wasn't there to help you pack up our valuables in the car, watch the news, worry and wait to find out if you would have to evacuate our home.
We thought the timing of the pregnancy would enable me to take baby leave after we got back from deployment. I was on baby-leave for 3-days when I got recalled to the boat. Another boat had broke, we were tasked to get underway to cover their ops, and the Captain wasn't willing to go to sea without the Navigator. So much for baby leave.
Orders came for shore duty, hooray... and yet another coast-to-coast PCS move, this time to the DC area. I was out at sea for the last three months I was on the boat, so we packed up our household goods and you headed off to DC with the boys while I went out to sea. You shopped for a house on your own, with a toddler and an infant in tow, bought a house, received our household goods shipment, and established our new home without my help. Then came the tornado warnings (unusual for the DC area), and you huddled in the basement with the boys, once again alone in a new duty station far from family and friends and without my support.
We really enjoyed shore duty in DC, but the time came to move on. This time, instead of coast-to-coast PCS orders, we got a real hum-dinger. I was going to a boat that would be on deployment for 4 months, then in Norfolk for 3 months, then change homeports to Hawaii. There was no point in you and the boys moving to Norfolk for that short a period of time, so you were a single mom and I was a geo-bachelor for a while and then we did a trans-oceanic move to Hawaii.
Once again, my contribution was minimal. You handled all the household goods packing and shipment without me. I flew with you and the boys to Hawaii, checked into the Navy Housing office to put our name on the waiting list, deposited you in the Navy Lodge, and I got back on a plane to Norfolk. Once again, you accepted custody of our new home in Navy Housing, you accepted our shipment of household goods, and you established our new home without my help.
Then there was the roller-coaster ride of negotiating for this current set of shore duty orders. DC! Hooray! No wait... Hawaii! No wait... Japan! No wait... Hawaii! This time we're sure, it's Hawaii. The honey-do list got longer since we were staying, and we started to set deeper roots in the volcanic rock of Oahu. Then the orders came... for DC! Hooray, we're going back to DC! Another trans-oceanic move!
We've been married for 11 years and called 7 different places "home." Every PCS (permanent change of station) move for us has either been coast-to-coast or across an ocean. None have been easy.
You have put up with so much, Sweetie, and I appreciate everything you have sacrificed and everything you have done to keep our family together and to uproot and replant our home in each new duty station.
Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day!