Today is the first day of our life back on the civilian side of the fence. Jeremy has served the past 10 years, 3 months and 28 days in the United States Navy. I am so incredibly proud of the man he is, the example he has set for our boys and the sacrifices he's made serving our country. There is no better time than now for me to reflect on our military life and what we went through together...
When I pictured my future, I said that I would never date, let alone marry, someone in the military. I was convinced that I could not handle it. I did a long distance relationship once and it ended in total disaster, so in my mind a military relationship would have been a billion times worse. We have all heard it - If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Jeremy circled back into my life and he was in the thick of his military training to be a (nuclear) reactor operator in the Navy. I saw God's plan for us so clearly, so instantly and intensely that it terrified me. I tried to talk myself down, which didn't last long. I knew that he was the man I needed, the one that I didn't think existed. He was kind, caring and honest. He followed through, dove as deep as I did and within weeks we were (secretly) talking about forever. I thought there MUST be something seriously wrong with him, because nobody can just be that amazing. I was in Michigan and he was in New York...I knew I loved him before we even finally saw each other face to face.
With Jeremy, I was not afraid to take enormous leap into this totally different life. I just knew that he was in it, committed and confident. Where he was I needed to be, it was that simple for me. Suddenly military life and moving away from everything and everyone I knew seemed easy. Knowing that this man and this life was a path laid out by God, I had a newfound confidence to move forward and make big choices that other people thought were crazy. We were engaged 5 months after we started dating and married each other in the chapel of the USS Ronald Reagan 3 1/2 months after that.
Military life is hard. Military life is lonely. I am not going to sit here and sugar coat it and say that I loved every minute because that not true at all. We lived in places I didn't like, I spent most of the first half of our marriage alone. I was basically a single mom living all the way across the country from family, dealing with chronic migraine and a baby that developed severe separation anxiety. I look back at that time and I am not sure how I got through it other than the grace of God. As hard and it was, I have learned a lot about myself walking side by side with the man that I love through a world I was sure at one time would break me... These are some of the things that we learned together and helped up through these past 9 years.
- Our family comes first, always.
Thankfully, Jeremy is not the kind of military man that thinks the military is everything. There are some men that thrive on the pulse of military life, being gone, in the action and surrounded by their peers. Jeremy has always looked at the Navy as his job, not his life and that has been critical for our marriage. He loved the people he served with, did his job with integrity and exceptional skill, but his heart has always been fully mine. When he was at sea, it was very hard. We missed each other and longed for time together. Before he left, every time, I would spend hours making him cards and send him off with a shoe box filled to the brim with "open when" letters.... Open when you miss me, open when you need a laugh, open when you are sad, open when you have a hard day, open when you wish you could have a beer (this one was covered with beer stickers and me saying sorry this as good as I could get you on the ship), open when you feel tired, open when.... I have written hundreds of things for him. I poured love and thought into each one. I knew that being away from me and Nathan was so difficult for him. He always says I had that harder job, but I disagree. I got to be home. I got to see all of Nathan's first's and watch him grow. I got to keep home going so when he came back it felt familiar. It made my job easier knowing that Jeremy was fully committed to our family, that we were and always will be his priority. There is a deep comfort in that knowledge when you are separated.
- We make decisions together, big or small.
One of the ways Jeremy and I could stay connected when he was on the ship was by email. He emailed me every chance he got. It's not like on tv or movies... He never got to Skype me (unless he was in port) and very rarely got to call me. Emails came as long as they were not in a communication black out - which happened often. As a couple, we like to be involved with each other and talk about everything. Any choices we make we do together. When he was gone it was critical to keep that going. I didn't want him to come home and feel like everything was totally different. Some men don't email often and some wives don't give day to day details because they don't want their men to feel as if they are missing out. For us, personally, it was the sharing and communicating that kept us close. I didn't have to fill him in on weeks and months of things he missed out on, I made sure he was never out of the loop.
- Our time together is precious.
It doesn't matter if we are on a trip, watching a show or just doing day to day things around the house, our time together is everything. We feel this pull to be close and we miss each other when we are apart. It is not like we cannot accomplish things independent of each other, that's not what I mean at all. For both of us quality time is our love language, so when we are together we make the most of is - and all the time we have spent apart makes us appreciate the quality time that much more. We are genuinely best friends and have so much fun just being in the same space.
- Money is not everything.
This might be a touchy subject, but when has that ever stopped me... In Jeremy's specific line of work, the Navy put a lot of time, money and training into these men and women. They are incredibly smart and and an incredibly important part of the Navy. When it comes time to try and keep them around, they are enticed to sign on for more time by hefty bonuses. We did make the choice to have Jeremy reenlist a couple times, not for the money but because we felt it was the right thing for our family. Ultimately we wanted to hit the 10 year mark because we knew that Nathan would be covered for college, which is a huge deal. Up until the final drive back to Michigan, we thought that Jeremy would do the reserves so that he could hit the 20 year mark for the retirement, because getting out now gets him zip. Something just didn't feel right about it, and Jeremy and I talked the entire trip from New York to Michigan about the pros and cons of doing the reserves. Ultimately, gut = God and he was making it clear that it was time to get out. The thought of Jeremy ever getting called back to active duty is unbearable. Not only would it be devastating for the boys, the life we want moving forward is fully family focused. We don't want to lay down at the end of the day thinking thank God he didn't get called up today. No amount of money is worth signing our life away on the dotted line... again. Jeremy has served his time and we are so proud of the military career he had.
- I am strong.
I was sure I couldn't handle military life. I was sure that I could not move away and be alone. I was sure I was weak in an undefinable way that would never fit into the hardness of the military. I learned that I am the opposite of all those things. I found out that I am very strong. I am very capable. And I am proud of the life I helped Jeremy create for us in the fire I thought would melt me into dust. We created something so beautiful, and together we have a relationship I hope sets a good example for others.
- God's plan is always greater...
Thinking about ignoring God's call to be with Jeremy terrifies me. I can't even imagine my life without this man. He is everything I have ever needed and more. Our relationship is a gift and we cherish each other. The challenges we have faced with health, family, and our marriage along with balancing the military commitment has opened my eyes. I want to be calm, quiet and confident when I hear God's voice and see His path laid out in front of me. I am less afraid to step into this new chapter of our life, and I am so happy Jeremy and I are going forward together, as always.