Reflections on a commitment to our country
|At 6:00 on that chilly May morning, I pulled the car up to the head of Pier 22 in Norfolk Virginia. I had already loaded my rack out days before, so all I needed to do was grab a small bag with my fresh uniform and boots in it. My wife got out of the car, and got my 8 month old son out of his car seat. I looked at her as I walked around the car to them, and felt my eyes water.
My first deployment. Seven months away from home. Away from my son. Away from her. Our first separation in the short 2 years we had been married.
I took my son in my arms. “I’m gonna miss you little man. Daddy loves you” I said as I squeezed him to my chest, and kissed his cheek. I put him back in his seat, and turned to my wife. I could see tears welling up in her eyes, as she smiled at Jason.
“We’ll have chances to get mail off and on. No telling when, but I’ll write to you. And you write to me.” I took her in my arms, and felt her sob against my chest. “I love you”.
“I love you too” she said as she patted my arm in an attempt at bravery.
That was it. I turned and headed to the pier. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t show up at the boat with tears streaming down my cheeks.
As I walked down that pier, I began to think. Why do we do it?
Why do we endure these separations? I was enlisted before I got married, so she knew what she was marrying: a Sailor. A man who goes to sea for months at a time. And I knew what I was getting into when I enlisted. Sailors are meant for ships, and ships are meant for sea.
I wasn’t alone. 112 other men crossed that brow that morning. Leaving behind wives, lovers, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. Each one knowing the commitment they had agreed to. And I wondered why.
Nor was this the first time that men had gone to sea. Others had gone before us, sailing off in that deep and wide abyss. Most had returned. But some didn’t.
We weren’t at war. This wasn’t some deployment to beat back the Hun, or the Jap, or even Ivan. But still we went. And as I thought about it, it began to dawn on me. We didn’t make this commitment because America was in trouble. Or because America was being invaded. We didn’t make this commitment because America was in danger. America was safe, because of our commitment.
My wife would go home, tend house, and raise our son for a time without me. But she would do it in a country that was at peace. I wondered if she knew that. I wondered if she knew that the pain of separation was a price she and I would both pay for freedom.
I don’t know if any of the other men on that boat felt that same way. I can’t honestly say that at that time I would agree that the commitment was for freedom, and peace. But this nation depends on that commitment, whether we make it for that reason or not.
We came back seven months later. We did our job. We survived. My son was a little older. My wife just as beautiful. And America was still at peace.