I recently reconnected with an old friend that I met years ago and we talked about life and how things have panned out. They were going to join the Navy and decided not to at the time. Their comment was that they wished they had joined the Navy and not chose to do things the “hard way.” This is a theme I have heard from my friends and family over the years. That some how joining the military makes things easier?
Let’s talk about my time in the Navy. Over 20 years. I was stationed on 5 ships (USS John Young DD-973, USS Lake Champlain CG-57, USS Bataan LHD-5, USS Boxer LHD-4, USS New Orleans LPD-18), did 10 deployments with only one being six months long (the rest were 8-9 months long) and spent some not so always fun time in a very hot and sandy spot. I was stationed in Portland, OR (semi-successful recruiting tour),San Diego, Ca, Newport, RI (amazingly successful Officer Training and Teaching Tour) and Norfolk, VA. I’ve been to Guam (x2), Puerto Rico (x2), Barbados, San Lucas, Peru, South Korea, Hong Kong (x2), Australia (x4), Oman, Jordan, Mubai (x100000000), Singapore (x2), Germany, Bali, Sri Lanka, India (EW), Thailand, Malaysia, Djibouti (i still snicker when I say that), Kuwait, Israel, Turkey, Malta, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Mexico, Canada, Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar, Dubai (x100000000000), Bahrain (x200000000000) and all over the US (I’m sure I am forgetting places). I’ve met SO MANY people from SO MANY places. I have had the ability to touch so many lives for the better (I hope). Made life long friendships with people that I know I would never have had the chance to have without the Navy. Worked on 3 different missile systems, a 5 inch gun system, 5 different radar systems and my pride and join 1 BAD bum (sorry for the language Mom) 20mm Gatling Gun system. I taught Naval Warfare tactics, ship handling, Small Arms Marksmanship and A MILLION other topics to new and old Sailors. I learned how to tell you the electrical resistance of a circuit (though I think my brain would hurt from that today). I learned how to accurately place ordinance on target, on time (Warheads on Foreheads). I’ve been shot at (believe it or not on more than one occasion). I was involved in several VERY pivotal and historical events (they even made a movie about one, but I can’t talk about it “I am the Captain now.”) Saw some SUPER COOL poop (sorry for the language Mom). Blew some poop up (LOTS OF poop) (SORRY FOR THE LANGUAGE FOR REAL MOM). Probably have fired more rounds down range than most Sailors. A sparrow tattoo on a Sailor equals 5000 nautical miles, I recently did the math (because ya know, need more ink) and I need 26 sparrows.... I’ve been on every single continent except Antarctica. I’ve been colder than I ever want to be ever again (-45) and hotter than I ever want to be (145). I have drank more Rip-It’s than I ever want to admit. Eatin food from SO MANY cultures. Drank so much that I thought my liver was literally going to come out of my body, been drunk on beaches in Bali by 10am. I have done so many amazing things that I can’t believe I had the chance to do, swam in every ocean, been a poly wog and then a Golden Shellback (Sailors will understand), eaten chow that I was unsure of what it was, and drank the darkest coffee you’ve ever seen in your life that I’m pretty sure equated to cocaine in a cup. I have a stack of ribbons and medals and certificates in pretty padded folders and a set of anchors that show all the deeds I have excelled at over the years.
Now those are some of the great things, lets talk perspective and reality. I was in Boot Camp when my adopted Grandma passed away, “A” School when my Uncle Dan passed away, on deployment when my Grandpa passed away, on deployment when my Grandma passed away, unable to take leave when my Uncle Ron passed away and I never got to say “Good Bye” to any of them... I have been in (I know this will be a surprise to some of you) TWO failed marriages, both of which ended when I found out they cheated on me (though I am pretty sure both said that I was the one that cheated). I missed COUNTLESS anniversaries which led me to understand why they had cheated. My last marriage lasted almost 5 years, of which I did the math, I was only home for 2 of. I missed so many birthdays and landmarks in the family that I have no idea of.... I have no real relationship with (except to be a source of money) 2 children that I fought for years with their mother to try to have a relationship with. Which at this point now I am just waiting for them to come to me. I never owned a house of my own because I was never sure of where I would go next and whether I would stay somewhere. As a result of the above I tend to place myself in a self imposed isolation from those I care about due to the fact that, well, to be truthfully honest, I don’t even think I know how to be in a family anymore. I have clinical depression that I battle with almost daily and went to years of therapy for. I have clinical anxiety, bordering on PTSD as a result of things that have happened to me in my past. I have been an E4 twice and and E5 twice because of toxic and garbage leadership (though in the end I owned my mistakes and they made me a better leader for it, they still have not owned theirs). I stayed in to try to ensure the same bullshit I went through professionally and personally didn’t happen or could be prevented. I have just now started to get my finances in order to even think about maybe buying my own home hopefully in the next 10 years, due to years of being too nice to an Ex that I was till living my life for still up to about 4 years ago. I have spent more time feeling more lonely than I would like to admit, even when I was in a room full of folks. I’ve decorated fake Christmas trees in my workshops and watched while the “kids” I worked with celebrated New Years in hanger bays thousands of miles from home. Taken Sailors duty on Christmas Day, New Years Eve/Day and Valentines Day, because NONE of those holidays mean a damn thing to me anymore. When leaving for my deployment in 2010 I was given a counseling for not “manning the rails” to say “good bye,” to San Diego with the rest of my division in our dress uniforms. And not counseled when I gave my response as to why, by screaming at the top of lungs at a senior petty officer that I didn’t do so because everyone had family and friends on the pier and my family that I hadn’t told anyone but a close friend wasn’t because I was legally separated from weren’t there. I watched horrified while a Sailor shot himself on watch while I was the Chief of the Guard (that still haunts me). I have felt guilt to this day for putting a young kid in the US Navy in 2003 who was killed in a small village in Afghanistan in 2007. I have spent more time in my life with walls around my heart and soul than not, as a result. I am a suicide attempt and ideation survivor. I am a loner for the most part, have always been, probably always will be. It tends to lend to be the easier path.
In the end, remember this, we ALL have a hard life. It is all a matter of perspective. Am I going to be okay? I don’t know, I would like to thinks so. As a result of much of the bullshit (sorry once again for the language Mom) that has occurred in my life I have found that those that I tend to let into my life, tend to be attached to me somehow or some way for the long haul. I have always said that NO MATTER WHAT, if you need help, put your pride on a shelf and ask me for it and you KNOW I will be there for you.
Remember it is not about materialistic things or money that makes you successful, it is how you learn from life. Or IF you learn from life and life experiences. Telling those that you love, that you love them, hugging them when you see them (not just a hand shake necessarily). Always keeping an open line of communication or trying to talk to those you care about. These things are most important in life. Grow together, stay connected, we have each other. These are the important things in life.