26 May 2013

Memorial Day

Yesterday morning, as we looked a bit begrudgingly out the window at our 6th day without sunshine, my husband remarked, "You know, this is the first Memorial Day when I won't have been either a dependent or in the Navy. Now I'm officially retired.

I have mixed feelings about this.

I grew up in a military town, always swearing up and down that I'd never marry into the military.

Famous last words, right?

Then I met this great guy who was not only in the Navy, he had grown up Navy. It was all he had ever known. His plan was to stay in the Navy forever and ever, or for as long as they'd have him.

I was young and in love and thought - how bad could it be? Words of a fool. What did I know? I'll tell you what I knew... NOTHING. Growing up in a military town and saying good-bye to military friends every couple of years does NOT prepare a person for the reality of military life. Not even a little. It was culture shock unlike anything I'd ever experienced.

In a word, I hated it. I hated the moving, the bureaucracy, the unfair (as I saw them) distinctions between enlisted and officers. I hated that the other wives were so INTO it, wearing the ranks of their husbands like a badge of honor. It was all so weird. But I especially hated the separations. We had two six-month deployments in three years' time. It was hard. It was excruciating. I gave it the old college try. I complained some - no, I complained a LOT - but made the best of it. I slugged through the deployments, managed things at home and wished secretly that he would get out of the Navy.

And then, after 12 years in, my husband left the Navy and found a wonderful job in Maine. A civilian job in which we wouldn't have to move again and he wouldn't be going away for more than a few days at a time. That was about the time that HE experienced culture shock. Of course, he stayed in the Reserves, but it wasn't the same.

Many more years have gone by and as of last fall, he is officially retired from the Navy, the Navy Reserves, and any other hold the Navy might hope to place on him. To this news, I breathed a sigh of relief. But he mourns a part of his life that I will never completely understand.

I am thankful for my time as a military wife. I learned so much. I learned about my own selfishness and sense of entitlement. I learned about my husband's unbelievable work ethic.

But more than that I learned, first hand, about what military wives go through every day. I was only with my husband for the last six years of his active duty Naval career, but it was enough to get a taste of the difficulties, the sorrows, the pain. It was also enough to get a taste of the pride.

On this Memorial Day, I salute the men and women who protect our country and do things and live in ways that the rest of us will never have to - all so that we can have the freedoms we so often take for granted.

But more than that, I salute their spouses and family members - the unsung heroes whose jobs are just as tough.

Most of all, I thank my sweet husband who gave much of his life to the military and gives 110% to everything he does.

Blessings to you all - and thank you.

Copyright © 2013 - Paulla Estes

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