Happy Veteran’s Day!

Happy Veteran’s Day!

I have a special place in my heart for Veterans, because my husband is one.

Boot Camp, 2001 – skinny!

Jason’s desire to join the Navy was born out of both necessity and patriotism. In 2001, he was living in Illinois and working a factory job. He wanted to go to college and get a degree in agriculture, but the cost was beyond what he could afford. The economy took a terrible turn, and he was laid off. It seemed like he didn’t have a lot of options – he couldn’t afford college without taking out loans, and the job opportunities in Illinois were not promising at the time. He had always had this sense of patriotism and desire to serve, and it seemed like the perfect time to enlist.

So he did.

We met in 2003, when he was in Charleston South Carolina for nuke school. Jason’s rate in the Navy was Electrician’s Mate, and he was a nuke, meaning he worked on the nuclear reactor system of the submarine. He had to complete extensive, difficult schooling before being sent to the fleet, and he was in Charleston from 2001-2003. I was there at the time going to graduate school, and the rest as they say is history.

I had never had any desire to date a military member. I was convinced I would marry a hometown boy, get married, and live within 10 miles of my parents. It wasn’t to be. God knew better than I (isn’t that ALWAYS the way?!) and he lead me to a boy who served.

I can remember one of our early conversations when we were dating with crystal clarity. Submarines were sort of a foreign concept to me. I mean, I knew they existed, sure. I knew the Beatles had a song about them. But I didn’t really understand how they worked or what they did. Jason was trying to explain to me what he would be doing when he reported to his first duty station aboard a submarine.

“So, do the submarines have windows? So you can look out into the water and fish while you drive around?”

Jason had quite the laugh at my expense. The answer is no (the pressure would make the windows break, or they could leak = very very bad on a submarine, and the depth at which they cruise isn’t really conducive to fish exploration).

Change of Command Ceremony while stationed at Subase Bangor, WA

We got married in July of 2003, and moved to his first duty station of Kings Bay, GA that same month. He reported to the boat in August and was told they would be leaving in two short weeks for his first deployment. Our first four months of married life were spent largely alone.

The submarine force is voluntary – meaning, you have to request to go subs if that is where you wish to serve. Navy sailors have the option of surface (aircraft carriers) or subs. Jason chose subs, and was stationed on the USS Nebraska 739. The USS Nebraska is an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine. She carries trident ballistic missiles. Fun fact: there are submarines on alert at any given time in the sea for warfare situations. This means the submarines are locked and loaded – if they get an alert, they can shoot off the weapons they carry to virtually anywhere in the world.

Photo Credit

This is a picture of the submarine pulling into port. The tug boat guides the submarine into place, and the sailors stand on top as ceremony to usher the boat home. Best. Feeling. Ever.

A few weeks after we reported to the USS Nebraska in Kings Bay, GA we were told that the boat would be undergoing a change of homeport to Subase Bangor in Silverdale, WA. This was especially fun news, since we had just bought a house in Kingsland. Jason had actually had a conversation with his sponsor before we started house hunting – a conversation in which the sponsor never mentioned the impending change of homeport that would make our buying a house we would live in for one year seem foolhardy.

Fun times.

During his time on the USS Nebraska, Jason went on 6 patrols, ranging from 10-12 weeks each. During this time he was submerged underwater and as such, communication is very limited. I was allowed to send him emails whenever I wished; however, the boat only received emails when they would surface. As the mission of the submarine is stealth, that didn’t happen often. I think I have 20 total emails from his 6 patrols. We also had about 3 mail drops per patrol. We would be alerted of the date our drops were due, and would turn them into squadron. We had strict guidelines to follow – whatever we sent had to fit into a flat letter sized envelope. We would occasionally get letters back, but it wasn’t something you could count on. In all the time Jason ever was out on patrol, I never received a phone call. That is a luxury submarine wives just aren’t afforded.

The interesting thing about submarine patrols is that life kind of pauses when they leave. Don’t get me wrong – life goes on. You do what you do, and time moves forward for both of you. But it is almost as if you married life just hits pause, and resumes when they finally come home. The lack of communication just kind of puts you into a bubble where neither of you really know what the other is doing, so its kind of like life starts again once they come home.

Cooper, 2010

In 2008, Jason was eligible for shore duty, and we moved to Charleston, SC. He was stationed the Naval Weapons Station Charleston as an Instructor. This was quite an adjustment – our entire married life thus far had been patrol/refit/off crew/repeat and now he was home at the same time each and every night. We finally felt settled enough to have Cooper, and that decision is what led to Jason separating from the Navy in 2011. At this point he had served for 10 years, and he wanted to be able to raise his children without the fear of being deployed and missing major milestones. The military life was all either of us had known in our married life, but I supported his decision.

Sullivan, 2013

We moved to Augusta, GA in 2013 and Jason began working for Southern Company at Plant Votgle. He missed the military. That desire to serve just wouldn’t go away. In December of 2013 he enlisted in the Navy Reserves.

The commitment to the Navy Reserve is for (at minimum) one drill weekend per month (Saturday/Sunday) and two weeks of Annual Training. There is, of course, always the possibility he could be called up for a deployment.

November 2017

Jason separated from the Navy as a 1st Class Petty Officer (E6) and in September of 2017, he was pinned as a Chief Petty Officer (E7).

September 2017

I truly am so thankful and grateful for my husband, who sets such an amazing example of true patriotism and service for our children. Thank you to ALL our Veterans for your service, and a special thank you to all the loved ones and family members who make their service possible. Happy Veteran’s Day!

Comments

  1. This was so very interesting! I know that all of our veterans and their families sacrifice, but this was such an insight into the actual, concrete sacrifice. And wow – I just admire the talent that it takes to do Jason’s job. And I loved getting insight into your early years!!! Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this!

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