One of my favorite traditions on “deployment day” was to take the day off from work and drive out to the furthest spot on the beach with a group of command spouses and significant others. Here we would wait for her to come into view. We would wait sometimes for hours in the wind, cold and drizzly rain to catch a glimpse of her (aka the boat).
Once she was in view we would stand on the rocks and take pictures of each other with the submarine moving quickly behind us. We did our best to hide our sadness with excitement that we were witnessing a pretty powerful machine move so awesomely through the water. There would be “civilians” out for a sightseeing trip completely in awe of catching a glimpse of a real submarine in the water. This reinforced our belief we really were part of something bigger in life and that our loved ones were leaving to do our nation’s bidding. They were indeed answering the call to serve, to protect and defend our great nation. It was hard not to let a tear or two fall on those days.
We’d follow the boat along the shoreline and then out to the furthest point we could stand on the pier. She would eventually pass us and as she did we would all become silent. We would watch her move further and further out to sea until her sail was completely out of sight.
The walk back to our cars was always filled with excitement that we were part of seeing such an amazing thing, but also filled with sadness in knowing that our loved ones would be out of contact for months. No phone calls, no Skype, no Facebook or texting. We were quickly reminded of the reason why the Submarine Force is called the Silent Service.
In the next months we would bond as sisters. We would be there for one another through parenting challenges, lonely weekends, health scares and more. It would be a time we tried to make the best of it, leaning on each other for strength, comfort and somewhere in process plan fun distractions to keep our mind focused on not letting life stop, but move forward.
I’ll never forget the time I picked up my Sailor down at the pier after an underway period. It had been months since I had seen him and in those awkward moments of trying to figure just what to say when getting to know your spouse all over again I asked, “when was the last time you saw the sky?”
I imagined he would say something romantic that could be a scene in a Tom Clancy movie, “it was midnight and there were what seemed like a million stars lighting up the night time sky.”
He replied, “the last time I saw you.”
Deployments come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your loved one isn’t on a submarine, but in Afghanistan, or Africa or in some other far away land. No matter the platform or location, we miss them all terribly and wait anxiously for their safe return!
If you are not already wearing a red shirt every Friday, I challenge us all to break out our red shirts and wear them each Friday in support of our deployed troops. RED, in this case, stands for Remember Everyone Deployed.
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