Friday, July 15, 2016

Home.

It feels like yesterday and a eons ago in a way I can't quite articulate.

First day of deployment: friends and family rally around. I remember being shocked and touched by the outpouring of support the day my husband flew off into the unknown. Flowers, wine, chocolate, magazines, funny gifts, notes, left lovingly by people who understood. Day one of deployment is paralyzing so the outpouring is much appreciated.

Back in 2011 on my husband's last deployment he was driven to the carrier by friends because our kids were in bed and I didn't want to drag them out into the night. I kissed him goodbye on our porch and then walked back inside, leaned on the door, and heard our old antique clock nearby "tick tick tick tick" in the quiet. I shook my head thinking of how time would be something I would be paying so much attention to. How many months have passed, how many to go, how many how many how many. It was there that I promised not to wish away the precious months with my kids. At that moment, I had a 6 month old baby snoozing in his crib. That is a precious time, and I knew that wishing away the months was a mistake.

Halfway through deployment: Or so we thought...
Things are routine now. But they've been gone "forever" and it still feels like "forever" to go. I've met many military spouses that think halfway is the hardest part. While it makes sense to frame it as "all downhill from here" like you are on the top of the hill of the roller coaster, many think of it as a valley and feel helpless in the face of the long climb ahead. I'm not sure how I feel about halfway, even after four deployments. It depends on the day or even the hour at that point.

We had an awesome halfway this deployment. Our CO and XO wives poured their hearts and souls into making the whole evening magical and full of surprises. We had dinner at an amazing restaurant, read hand-written notes from our husbands, and toasted each other. I even ran into the ocean in a cocktail dress. It doesn't get much better than that!

Extension: Oh, extension...
I was sitting on my porch on my 35th birthday and my friend pulled up to take me to lunch. When she got out of her car her face was sullen. "Have you heard?" she asked

"Heard what? That I'm old?" I answered hopefully. Knowing that that wasn't the answer but hoping it wasn't what I feared.

30 day extension. On my freaking birthday! What the hell, universe? Seriously?

We were 6 weeks from homecoming at that point but had heard rumors that they wanted the carrier to stay on station longer to keep pressure on ISIS. But we had all hoped that the Navy would keep the 7 month commitment to families. That was wishful thinking.
Listen, the Navy loves to spin extensions as something to be proud of. Proof that what our spouses are doing is working, that they are needed, that they are professional warriors and 30 days is a drop in the bucket. But between you and me? They suck. Moving finish lines suck. Telling your kids that daddy will be gone longer than expected when they've already been missing him for so long sucks. Thinking of all the new things you will now have to do alone sucks.
We get it, we move on, and we embrace the suck. But it doesn't change the fact that it is like tripping over the hurdle when you are so close to the finish line you can feel it.

And then finally, after 8 months and 240 "sleeps" as my kids like to call them:

Homecoming: the thing that makes it all (almost) worth it.
Our squadron spouses were all crossing fingers and toes that all of our air crew could make it back together as one unit. Our planes flew hard for 8 months of combat cruise and then had to make a long 2,800 mile journey back to our base. We are a west coast squadron who deployed with an east coast carrier. So when they hit 400 nautical miles off the coast they took off. And we all sat in silent prayer hoping that no warning lights would pop.
And they made it. And they were home.













Welcome home USS Truman, Carrier Air Wing 7, and especially to The Wallbangers!

Thank you to Tanya Craft Photography for coming out and patiently awaiting the arrival of our squadron! You aren't just a great photographer, but you've been a wonderful neighbor to me and my kids.

Lastly, one of the sailors in the squadron made an amazing video that illustrates the fun, crazy, much unseen parts of deployment and the mighty Hawkeye. From port calls to catapult shots, night carrier landings to laying on the beach in Dubai. So many ups and downs to a carrier cruise: (this is a Facebook video so the link will take you there)

VAW 117 CRUISE VIDEO

I hope this gives you a glimpse into the last 8 months of my life. I'm sad I wasn't able to write to you all during that time. Hopefully that changes as we face our next adventure: PCS. We don't know where, we don't know exactly when, but we know it is soon. Never a dull day!








Sunday, July 10, 2016

In the Waning Days

This deployment was nothing like the last one in many ways. If you have been a reader of my blog, you know I've been totally absent. Last time John was gone I would write 3 or more times per week; it was my outlet and my saving grace, but it wasn't to be this time. The world has changed, we are more interconnected, and I simply didn't feel safe with "anyone" (or even my small group of readers) knowing that I was home alone with two kids for eight months. Especially with the mission my husband and his squadron was tasked with.

It was different in many other ways too. My kids are older and so I was definitely less drained and had more time to myself than 2011. I had a much larger "village" with school, sports, dance, friends, and friends who became family. I live in a wonderful neighborhood in a beautiful area with gorgeous weather. The lonely, physically exhausting deployment of 2011 was not repeated and I am grateful.

We are in the waning days. There is a bright light at the end of this long tunnel.

I am so proud. Proud of my husband for his service and sacrifice. Proud of my kids for their strength and good nature. Proud of my fellow navy wives - some going through their first deployment, others going through their 7th or more. Proud of myself for juggling the many tasks and roles somewhat gracefully over the past 240 days.

It is a controversy in the military community about whether military families actually "serve" the nation. Make any mention about a spouse taking an ounce of credit for her servicemember and you are met with a chorus of internet disdain (just google "dependa" if you want a taste of that vitriol). And while you'll never see me sporting a bumper sticker proclaiming that as a Navy wife that I have the "toughest job", I also do not believe that families and kids have "nothing" to do with the success of the US military. No, I wasn't issued to my husband, but my husband wouldn't serve if he couldn't do so with the kids and I by his side. And while my kids aren't flying off an aircraft carrier every day, they are definitely cuddling their daddy dolls and longing for their father every night. My kids have sacrificed. My fellow Navy wives have sacrificed, and I have sacrificed. I am okay saying that, proud even.

Every month we would send a box out to the squadron to brighten their days and decorate their space seasonally. On one of the last months we sent out a box with a "Here Comes the Sun" theme. I asked the families in our squadron to submit a photo or video with what they are most excited to do once their sailor gets home. As I opened emails with submissions I was struck with how simple some of the wishes were. "Play with my toys", "snuggles", and "sharing pizza" were some of the popular ones. For others, the request was more serious and heart wrenching, "I can't wait for you to meet your son".

Wallbanger "Here Comes the Sun" video, 2016 (sorry it isn't embedded, just click the link and it should work):


These are sacrifices. These families are serving in their own way. No, it doesn't take away from the men and women standing the watch, manning the rails, sleeping aboard the carrier, and flying thousands of missions. The Truman will have traversed over 50,000 miles of ocean on this deployment and they deserve all of the accolades. But as I kiss my kids goodnight over the next few nights, the last nights of deployment, I know that they have served too.


Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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