They say the “hardest job in the Navy” is being married to someone in the Navy. Being married to an active-duty military member means constant moves and long absences, often on short notice. It means a lot of surprises and being able to adapt. I’ve been blessed to find somone willing to put up with all that crap, but the Navy wife (or Army/Air Force/Marine wife) job is not for everyone.
Being underway on a warship is hard for both the deployer and deployee. My sense is that most people assume that it’s the 21st Century and the US Navy is the most advanced in the world goddammit, so communication between Sailors and home must be great! From episodes of NCIS to Kay jewelery commercials, pop culture tends to portray ships as bastions of connectivity, with Sailors chatting home on the phone or webcam whenever they get the chance. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case – email has become pretty consistent in the last decade or so, but it can be interrupted for days or weeks at a time due to technical or operational issues. On most smaller ships, telephones are limited to the CO, XO and operational use only. Personal video chatting is completely out of the question on any ship I’m aware of.
So this article in the New York Times blog caught my eye. The author is a young woman talking about her conflicted feelings as her “temporary boyfriend” deploys overseas in the Army – temporary because she made it clear from the outset that she wouldn’t continue the relationship after he deployed:
That’s right. I’m dating an intelligent, brave, funny, handsome veteran who is preparing to redeploy to Afghanistan for a year, and I’m breaking up with him when he leaves.
To be fair, he has known this from the beginning….I let him know that I didn’t think I could handle doing long distance for a year or be a main pillar of support as he tried to re-acclimate to civilian life in 2013. I didn’t think I could handle being … needed.
As I stated above, being a military spouse or girlfriend is not for everyone – it’s actually somewhat commendable that this woman was upfront and honest about her own personality and willingness to endure the difficulty of an obtacle like that. There is nothing wrong with being unwilling to spend 6 months or a year apart from your girlfriend or boyfriend – much more often, the military-significant-other in question withholds the truth from their deploying Sailor or Soldier to “spare their feelings,” only to send a Dear John letter 3 months later.
That Kay commercial, by the way, infuriated my lovely Vixen at home. The last time I deployed (in 2011), my ship had been gone for a week without any email or contact home, and she had to see that damn commerical on her birthday – she was not pleased. That sort of thing that’s just par for the course in the military, so for the “temporary girlfriend” that posted on the NY Times, thanks for at least being honest with the Solider in question. And Kay Jewelers, if you’re reading this, my wife REALLY hates your commercial.