Project Alicia : military days

Monday, March 22, 2010

military days

Today I read a blog that really affected me.

My nephew is currently serving in Afghanistan and has a unit of 40 some men under him. Last week 2 of them died.

Maybe that is what made his wife write about the possibilibity of losing a loved one. She put a link to a blog of a recently widowed wife. I clicked on the link and saw a picture of her pregnant belly as her marine husband kissed it, possibly for the last time. He is now about to be laid in his final resting place. Not the sort of thing a 23 year old brand new mom expects to have happen. Heart wrenching stuff.

Many of you don’t know that my husband also served in the military for the first 6 years we were married. It is not a time I look back on with fond memories.

It was not during time of war, but he went out on nuclear submarines for more than half of his time enlisted in the Navy… not exactly the picture of calm that makes you sleep well at night, as there are many things that can go awry on a nuclear submarine. If you’ve ever watched any of those submarine movies you know what I mean. He never really talked about most of it, as almost all of it was confidential- from the depth that they actually dropped to the missions they carried out.

It was a lonely, difficult time for me. He typically was deployed for 3 months at a time, but there were several patrols that he got short cycled to different boats right after porting and was sent right back out. There was one year he served 3 consecutive patrols.

It was a different time back them too. Believe it or not, we didn’t have cell phones and land line phones were 10 cents a minute and that was if you somehow managed to finagle that amazing rate.

Haldan rarely ported and if he did I had no idea of when it was going to be, so the times we connected were rare. There was no emails or texting or IMing… we were lucky if we got to talk one time on the phone during a patrol. That one phone call would generally run us hundreds of dollars that we didn’t have, as service men were not paid nearly as well back then.

We did get family grams. I believe it was 8 per patrol. You could write 50 words including your name and his. There could be nothing emotional, intimate, disturbing, coded, or confusing. It went through an interesting cycle, sort of like what I equate the morris code. It exchanged hands so many times that by the time the message was received by Haldan it rarely was my original message. There were several times my messages were returned. One was when I used the term TMJ. My jaw had popped out during my finals and I thought it would fit better than temporomandibular joint disorder. They considered it "code" even after I told them what it was. I don't know if he ever got that family gram.

When he would leave they would take away food rations because he was being fed on the boat. Who cares about the family left behind. The food they dished out came in crates that read, “Refused by the state penal code of California”- not the ideal for exemplary dining. He allowed me to have dinner with him only once. Then it all became very clear. Needless to say, I lost some weight during that time period.

There were 2 patrols that really stick out in my mind, as both had emergency returns to our home port. One was when there was a fire in the engine room and another was when someone died on the boat. I received a phone call on a calling tree. It was vague and all I could do was wait by the phone and pray that all was well.

This fear that I felt does not begin to compare to what some of the wives go through today as their men serve on the front lines…

I cannot possibly begin to understand all that they carry.

To Mrs. Jonathan D. Porto and any other families that have suffered a tremendous loss:

Although there is nothing I can do or say that will make it better, I wanted you to know that my heart goes out to you in your time of loss.


  1. well said. I knew some of the hardships that you dealt with when he was in the Navy, but I didn't know those. Very interesting to read. I have no idea how military wives do it. I couldn't.

  2. I agree...well said. I read the Camo/Pink blog the other day. Our friend is serving over there right now. He only has a few months left...and we are all praying that he makes it home safely. (He's actually the one that passed along the blog for friends to read) I feel very selfish telling my husband that he can't enlist...but I just know that I can not handle the stress of worry to that degree. I already worry enough--to a fault. But I am Very Greatful for those who do serve. It is a big sacrifice...and knowing someone close who serves....I understand that much better than I did when I was a kid and my dad served.

    Isn't it amazing how far technology has come in the last 10 years+??

  3. Great post! I talk to other wives a lot about how far communication has come, and how lucky we are not to have to go through what wives in previous periods of combat went through. A year ago troops in Afghanistan had almost no communication, and now Dan can read my blog sometimes!