When I was young, I always knew I wanted to be a mother and a wife, but I never imagined I would become a spouse to a member of the military. The traveling, the uprooting, the long periods of time away from the one you love — it just never crossed my mind that it might become my way of life one day. Then I met Shaun …
My husband joined the Coast Guard in 2000 and was stationed in Alexandria Bay, New York. It was there that he met his first wife. She was there for the beginning of his career, and after that, they headed to Ketchikan, Alaska, and then back to Oswego, New York. I’ve never really heard the story of their entire time together, except bits and pieces from our group of friends. I’ve seen pictures of Shaun’s years in New York and Alaska, and it seemed to be a beautiful and fun time. It was an important period of his life for making memories and experiencing some pretty amazing sights. I’m sorry that I never got to experience those things with Shaun and that the person he was with at the time didn’t appreciate any of it.
I joined Shaun in the middle of his military career in 2009. We began our journey in Charleston, South Carolina, where we made many memories together. We went to music festivals, went camping, found our favorite hole-in-the-wall bar, became engaged and even conceived our first child there. Shaun swears to me that it wasn’t until I came into the picture that he truly began to make memories in his adulthood worth keeping, and I do believe him.
However, a part of me can’t help but feel cheated out of some pretty cool and pretty different experiences as a military spouse. For example …
Drinking and fishing were two of the biggest pastimes for Shaun while he was in Alaska. I’ve seen lots of pictures of game nights, bar nights, and fishing trips that would have been pretty fun with him. During that time, we would have been in our twenties and in the early stages of his career with minimal cares — we would have partied hard and loved every minute of it.
We did a whole lot of exploring when we were in South Carolina but to have even longer to do so before having kids would have been wonderful. Shaun has such an amazing repertoire of historical and general information about the world, and until I met him, I lived somewhat of a sheltered life in the sense of traveling. With him as my tour guide, I would have had the world at my fingertips, and I would have savored it so much more.
Watching Shaun move up the ranks in the Coast Guard would have made me so proud. Helping to put his new collar devices on, taking a bunch of annoying photos as a proud spouse, watching him work his butt off day in and day out knowing he earned the accolades — I would have appreciated it all. I’m so grateful I’ve been able to do these things for the last eight years. I just wish it would have been the last 17.
There are a few things that I’m glad I missed out on, though. While in Alaska, Shaun was out at sea 30 to 45 days at a time. Those make for lonely days, I’m sure. Shaun was gone for 1 to 2 weeks at a time while in South Carolina, and I handled it well, but if it was any more than that, I can’t say that I’d be strong enough.
I give MAJOR props to those mamas out there who deal with deployments and extended time away from your loved one. You’re all so brave. I’m also glad I missed the days when Shaun was in the duty section. Having him home every night is something I enjoy. Believe me — I do not take this for granted. I’m grateful for any extra time we have together.
While I do feel some slight resentment for not having been with Shaun during the formative years of his career, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If we would have met any other time in our lives, there’s a pretty good chance that we would not be together today. And we would not have our two beautiful children and be living this crazy, fast-paced, not-perfect-but-perfect for us life.