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Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. I think this is a fairly new day. It is a nice thought, and I am going to use this nice thought to look back on my journey.

I have been dealing with Navy crap stuff for 20 years. Let me tell you. I had no idea what was in store for me. I was a homebody. I would have been content to live in the same town for the rest of my life. Besides, I grew up in a Navy town. Marrying a sailor was way down on the “to do” list. No, wait. It wasn’t on the list at all. I was not going to marry a sailor. Ever.

And then I met this cute guy. After 6 months of dating, three of which he was gone, we married.

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He was stationed aboard the USS Camden (AOE-2) now decommissioned. There are a few things I remember about his tour on the Camden. I remember 3 section duty with duty weekends. Duty weekends sucked, people. He left for work on Friday and came home Monday night. I remember our first Valentine’s Day. He came home and told me that he had reenlisted. They Navy was different then. There was no PTS. You wanted to reenlist? They drew up the papers, and you signed them.  He left on deployment three days later. I was pregnant, but didn’t know it yet. He found out that he was going to be a daddy standing at a payphone on a beach in Hawaii. During that 6 month deployment,  I went 8 weeks without one word from him-no letters, not a phone call and certainly no email since it didn’t exist for us then. I had a $300 phone bill (in 1994 dollars) from his visit to Australia when we made up for missed days. I was 8 months pregnant when he returned from deployment. He didn’t recognize me at first. Who could blame him? I had gained 40 pounds.

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Shortly after he arrived home, he took orders to Singapore. He didn’t discuss this move with me before he accepted the orders. He had a lot to learn. In the end, I am so glad that he took those orders because it would be the duty station that would define our marriage and bond us. Because we had spent so much time apart (9 months of our first year were apart), living together every day was a learning experience. We were also one of the most junior couples at COMLOG WESTPAC. Most of the people stationed at this command were officers, and their wives became my closest friends. I learned so much from them. I know they looked at me as a young wife. It irritated me at the time, but I was young and dumb. I am just glad that I wasn’t so dumb that I couldn’t learn from then. I did learn. These wonderful people taught me so much. My daughter was born here, and I was spoiled with love and attention. I can say without a doubt that this was my favorite duty station.

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From there my husband applied for a tour as a Recruit Division Commander at Great Lakes. He was one of the first from his rate to be accepted to this job. This was the hardest three years of our marriage, but the most rewarding for him in his career. He worked 80 hour weeks. I never saw him, and when I did he was sleeping. The kids and I would take him dinner. We were not allowed to go into the “ship”, so the recruits would be on Barney watch. (we drove a purple van) He would meet us in the parking lot for a quick hello and a kiss. Some days that would be the only time the kids saw him. My youngest was born while we lived here. He was born on a night he put his recruits on the bus. My husband’s senior chief gave me a fake award for waiting until the recruits were gone before I went into labor. Do you see how dedicated I was? haha!  Once during a particularly tough week, he started yelling at me in his sleep. He told me my uniform was a mess. I remember soothing him and telling him I would work harder and get it together. He went back to sleep.  Another fond memory is the day I had an allergic reaction to a medication. My neighbor took me to the ER. This was in the day before everyone had a cell phone. I called his “ship” to tell him that I was on the way to the ER. He remembers it was all over the base that his wife was in the ER. Every time he passed another division on the street, they would yell, “Your wife is in the ER!” He couldn’t come to me because he couldn’t leave his recruits, but it was fine. Just another day at the office.

From there we moved to Jacksonville, FL where he was stationed aboard the USS John F. Kennedy. For the record, that ship was haunted. Just saying. Anyway, the memory that sticks out in my mind the most is Sept. 10, 2011. I dropped him off at the ship because they were leaving early the next morning. Have you tried to drive on a base the morning a carrier is leaving? It sucks. So we always dropped him off the night before. Anyway, I had to take my oldest to the doctor that morning and I watched the ship pull away from the pier as I heard on the radio that planes had crashed into the towers. I barely made it off the base before they closed the gates.  That was the longest day. He came home 6 weeks later. The best memory from our time aboard The Kennedy was my birthday 2002. We found out that he had made Chief. It was a heck of a birthday present. He was deployed at the time and he called me at 2 AM to give me the news. There were now sat-phones on the ship that he could call on. How far we had come!

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They moved him to another command after he made Chief. Just a side note. I think that I deserve a freaking medal for making it through the initiation process. It has changed since then. It Sucked. Yes, I capitalized that on purpose.

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We stayed at Mayport for another 2 years. Then moved back to Bremerton so we could live close to my family. He was stationed aboard the USS John C. Stennis for three years and then moved to Naval Region Northwest. The last 6 years of our Navy time together haven’t been as significant as the first years. I think it is because it has just become a part of me. I don’t notice it as much. Deployments and separations were the name of the game. But I have to give credit to my friends who listened to me whine because whine I did.

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I don’t know how this whole journey ends. If the Navy would ever release the blasted Master Chief results, I might have a better idea. I am ready for his retirement. Call me a bad wife, but I am hoping for a retirement date rather than a promotion ceremony. I have done my time. I am ready to be selfish. I do not want to share him with the US Navy anymore. I have met amazing people. I have done amazing things. I wouldn’t change any of it because it has made me into the person that I am.

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Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Like we need a day to tell us how awesome we are? Am I right?

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