Category: the Navy

Shipmates and friends

USS George Washington, Japan

When I was in the Navy, I spent too much time being angry about the handful of crappy people I met. I was angry when someone’s word meant more than mine because of their rank–not their knowledge, argument, or even their reputation for sound judgment. I was angry when some people were ruined just by an accusation, while others walked around practically flaunting their ability to get away with anything. Sometimes it’s who you know. Sometimes it’s who you’ve offended. Sometimes it’s luck, perhaps.

There’s certainly a measure of unfairness in the Navy. Also, I hate donning an SCBA! But my point is that I spent so much time being angry and feeling wronged by some bad eggs that I not only acted pretty rotten myself, but I also made a fool of myself in front of some very good eggs that I also met along the way. I met many wonderful people in the Navy, one of whom I even married, and honestly I feel embarrassed by how emotional and rash I sometimes often was in front of them in those days.

Only now I am starting to miss them and appreciate them more, and to realize how much time I wasted in their company, not enjoying their company, but being miserable about my idiot Chief or why do people have to gossip? or other things.

Monday I got together with a woman I knew close to five years ago. We met a few months before I left for Japan, became friends, and then didn’t see each other for all those years. We had a lot to talk about, neither has a complete picture of what the other has been busy with–but that’s okay. I felt like we clicked again just like we did all those years ago, back when my hair was dyed black–as she remembered aloud. I laughed. It’s ridiculous.

Then yesterday or the day before, I posted to Facebook, asking if anyone had done time in the Selected Reserve because I’m thinking about joining before my IRR time is up. A woman I used to work for, who has since been rightfully promoted, and is also a recruiter now, asked me what information I needed. I messaged her, and just started to remember all she had done for me. She hadn’t just directly helped me, like when she nominated me for Sailor of the Quarter. She also helped me because she was reasonable and fair and hard-working, and the example she set made me want to be better. She motivated me to get lots of qualifications and to help others get them too. She showed me what leadership is. That’s not to say I always appreciated her in those days, but mostly I did. And now? It can’t even benefit her to help me, but she still is.

I am so grateful for the people I’ve met in the Navy. I have met people to show me what friendship, leadership, teamwork, hope, and commitment really look like. I’ve met people who brought out the worst in me–and people who helped me overcome that. I love so many of them, and really, I’m sure they have no idea. That’s alright. I’m just so grateful.

Why I don’t identify as a “military wife.” (Part 2)

I definitely got carried away yesterday, writing nearly 1,500 words. To summarize those ideas, I don’t identify as a military wife partly because I have found it very unpleasant to socialize with 9/10 other military wives I’ve met, and also because I still identify more as a military service member than a military family member.

Another big reason I don’t call myself a Navy wife is because I think men and women are equal. I think my accomplishments and daily duties are just as important and interesting as my husband’s. I’ve met many people since leaving active duty who find out that I’m both a veteran and a spouse of a military member, and do you know what they ask? They don’t ask what I did in the Navy, or for how long, or why I left. They don’t ask what I do now, or if they do, they stop paying attention when I say, “I study,” and couldn’t care less about what I study—and I study physics, so since when is that boring to talk about?

What people ask is what my husband does. Where is he stationed? Is he on deployment? What’s his rank? Is he going to retire? Thank him for his service. Is it because I’m a woman that my service doesn’t matter? I think.

I love my husband, and of course I am proud of him. He’s not an American hero. I know his job way, way better than most women know their husband’s jobs. I’m proud of him mostly because I know he could get away with doing way less work with way lower quality—but because he’s just that kind of person that doesn’t half-ass, gun-deck, or jury-rig (unless ordered to, which does happen sometimes). I’m also proud of him because he gets shit done. He doesn’t like the military, but he has yet to do something to purposely get kicked out. He doesn’t just sit around waiting for his contract to be up. He doesn’t refuse to get qualifications occupy leadership roles because, “I’m getting out anyway,”—which civilians may not know is actually a pretty common thing to happen among enlisted people who realize they don’t want to do twenty years. In short, I love my husband, and I’m proud of his work because in it he shows his integrity as a man. Also, I’m proud of it because it’s how he shows his patience as well; it takes a patient person to deal with some of the inept superiors he has had.

But my husband’s hard work, integrity, promotions—I should mention that he’s probably going to have to try not to get promoted next time up, if he truly doesn’t want to become a First Class—are not my own. My military service record speaks for itself. My grades speak for me. The way I handle myself speaks for me. Being married to a great person doesn’t make me a great person. When I call my husband “my better half,” I really mean it.

So when I say I’m not a Navy wife, it’s partly because I have my own accomplishments to be proud of—but it’s also because it’s not my business to take credit for my husband’s accomplishments. We are married, and we are one in important ways, but not in every way.

I think that’s all I need to write on this topic for a while. I do have strong feelings about it, and there are many misconceptions that civilians have of military people (some of which are definitely perpetuated by military people, such as the lie that we are not paid well). I wish people did not ask questions like they do… or I wish they would put more thought into those questions. I hope in my lifetime I will see women get paid the same as men for the same work, whether in the military or outside of it, and also receive the same respect. I also wish people would get over the military worship in this country, because we’re not all heroes, we’re not all saints, and most of us joined for economic reasons, not “to fight for your freedom.”

(The economic inequality that leads to more poor people going to war and dying versus rich ones is another topic entirely.)

Anyway, I feel a little better writing down some of my thoughts.

Why I don’t identify as a “military wife.” (Part 1)

After I separated from active duty (you can still call me Petty Officer though, because I’m in the reserve), I spent several months traveling, and then I married a fellow Sailor who was (is) still active.

We met when we were both E-nothings in the Navy, stationed on shore duty in San Diego. He got orders to sea duty in Japan while I was considering a career transition from avionics to the legal field. We’d been together for six months when I had to choose a path:

-Left at the fork meant taking orders as a third class calibration technician to Japan a few months later.
-Right at the fork would’ve meant waiting several more months in San Diego, going to school in Rhode Island during winter, a guaranteed promotion, and my boss’s word that I’d get orders to Japan after that.

There was plenty to it, and much happened personally and professionally in the years that followed my decision to go ‘left.’ Eventually, I decided to leave the military and go back to college. There were many factors to this decision as well, but so it happened. My then-fiance was still in Japan when I got out, and he chose his next orders (to the extent that we choose our orders, of course) based on where he could go that had a good university reasonably close. Here we are now in San Diego.

When we moved here, we had limited time to find a place. At first, we completely ruled out living in military housing either on or off base. Why? Because the stereotypes of badly behaved military families are based on something—and I’ll just leave it at that. We lived in a really nice neighborhood for a while, although we did get tired of the many dogs in all of our neighboring apartments. We were going to stay as long as the rent didn’t get raised to a certain level, but after our lease was up, it was raised past that level. It wasn’t worth it to us to stay there, so we looked for another place. Looking for a new place is such a pain in the ass that I’m not going to detail it. Basically, we opened our minds to the possibility of living in military housing, and then were offered a deal we couldn’t really refuse. A way bigger townhouse style unit than we could afford outside of military housing, and for significantly less money every month than anything else we’d seen. It wasn’t even in a ghetto! And utilities were included! So we jumped on it, and now I’m really not sure if I regret it or not.

Oh, you’re in the Navy…

Without detailing why I hate my neighborhood, and the disagreements I have with some of my neighbors, I can just say that I don’t fit in with military wives. I damn certainly don’t fit in with the Marine Corps wives who make up the majority of this area’s stay-at-home assholes moms. I’ve read a lot on the Internet, and had conversations with friends in and out of the military, and the few friends I have who are also married to men in the military, about women who try to “wear their husband’s rank.” The idea is that one woman considers herself superior to another on the basis of her husband having a superior rank. It’s actually an especially ridiculous behavior for Sailors’ wives because in the Navy, pulling rank is really….

How do I explain this? It depends on the unit, of course. But there’s the saying, “You attract more flies with honey.” I have observed in other leaders, and experienced while holding leadership roles myself, that saying, “I’m your superior, and that’s an order,” is far less effective than being the kind of person that your subordinates want to follow. Rank is quite a complicated thing in a social sense, in the Navy, at least, and so I will leave it at that for now.

Anyway, there are the rank pulling wives. But as a Navy person in a mostly Marine neighborhood, I wonder if there isn’t a similar thing going on with women considering their husband’s branch as superior as well. There’s absolutely a swinging dick mentality going on. I’ve trained with and known Marines. I go to school with many Marine veterans now. Everyone has a reason for joining the military, and everyone has a reason for choosing a branch. And I’m not saying every Marine is the same, but plenty of them choose the Corps because of ego. Marines are thought of as elite, as a more difficult force to join than the Army, as a more masculine force than the Air Force or Navy. “The few, the proud,” and all of that. It’s hard to get along with people who seem to think they’re better than you for some reason. For me, it’s especially hard to get along with women who have never served in the military, but seem to think that their husbands’ service in the USMC is superior to my service and my husband’s service in the Navy.

Not to mention the Navy is absolutely without a doubt the greatest military branch in all of history anyway. But I digress.

We never see you…

In one of my exchanges with some of my neighbors here, I told them to talk to me during the day some time. It was ten at night, and I think I was reasonably in not wanting to talk to them at that time. They responded emphatically, “We never see you!”

I guess they don’t see me. I don’t have kids, so I don’t hang out at the playgrounds (though I do go to the playground nearest my unit to do pull ups on the monkey bars). I don’t sit in a lawn chair in my driveway socializing because I don’t have time. I don’t go to neighborhood events because I don’t want their shitty free hamburgers, and again, I don’t have time. Three days a week, before 1600, I’m in my garage with the door open, working out. I run and bike in the neighborhood when I can. I check my mail almost everyday around 1500. I frequently drive in and out, and see the neighbors and their children out and about. I frequently have to stop my car while they yell and drag toys out of my driveway so that I can pull in. They don’t see me? No, they do see me, but they don’t see me at a time when it’s convenient for them to gang up on me and tell me what they think.

The thing is, even though they definitely see me and have opportunity to talk to me, and even though I do spend many hours at home during the week, I am a busy person. Very few of these women work, though some have small children they care for all day. Hell if I know what the ones do whose children are all in school until 1500. They don’t see me because I’m busy. If I’m home, I’m working. I may just be a student, but I generate income from being a student, and I put in my 40 hours a week. In a very real sense, I have a job. My job happens to be preparing for another job (partly).

Work is what I’m getting at. Work is an amazing thing. I have a desire to work. I have a desire to do work I consider meaningful too. I am not satisfied simply to support my husband in his meaningful work. It is difficult for me to identify with a group of women of whom so few women are driven to do their own shit. Being a mother is one thing, and it’s more than I am ready for right now (well, ya know, unless God decides otherwise). But of all my friends who are mothers, I really don’t know any who are satisfied to stay at home. Some have taken time off for the baby years, but all have put great efforts into home businesses, education, or plain, old-fashioned, earn-a-paycheck jobs. I guess that’s just who they are. That’s who I am. Maybe someday I will have a greater ability to click with someone who is happy putting 100% of herself into other people, but for now…

I simply don’t know what to talk about. << 5 / 12 / 14 I’ll continue this post another day.  >>

I just want to enjoy the fresh air (venting)

I’m having issues with some of my neighbors. It’s not that they let their children run around the street like wild animals, leaving their toys and scooters everywhere and just randomly screaming. It’s not that they themselves are always out on the street yelling at the kids or each other. It’s not their music. It’s not their cigarette smoke or their drunken slurring.

It’s just their fire pits. I live in a small community of townhouse style units. Nobody has a yard, and nobody is allowed to have a fire pit. That makes sense to me. If I can smell what the neighbors are cooking for dinner, and I can hear the conversations they’re having outside while I’m sitting on the second or third floor of my place, of course I can smell — and be completely overwhelmed by — the billows of smoke coming out of their fire pit…. that they’re not supposed to have.

I get wanting that feel. I get that some people like the smell of wood smoke. I get that a lot of these people are from the country where they probably grew up acres (or at least tens of yards) away from their neighbors, and burned wood all the time. I understand that country people like to do that more than, say, people from St. Pete, Florida, like me. But here’s the thing. We all like the cool, fresh, autumn air, right? So why pollute it? If you’re okay with inhaling known carcinogens, that’s okay too, but why force your kids to breathe that too? And why your neighbors? Isn’t there a way to have a good time without sitting in front of a fire pit drinking?

A lot of people would say, “close your windows,” but the bottom line is that the rules say fire pits aren’t allowed. Now it’s just a matter of getting the rules enforced. But even if it weren’t for the rules, why should I close my windows? If someone’s neighbors are blaring music so loud that his apartment is shaking, is the solution really, “Use some ear plugs?” Of course not. Why shouldn’t I get to enjoy the fall air after all these months of super hot and dry weather? Why shouldn’t I get to keep the windows open and lower my electric bill and my carbon footprint? I don’t do anything to bother these people. They do a lot to bother me, but I only complain about one thing.

A group of these neighbors came by my place around 10 last night. They started by saying, “We’re sorry if we…” but ended by saying, “You’ve pissed off a lot of people,” and other things like that. They were drunk, and they thought we had called security on them for their blaring music, which we had not done. (Apparently that means we are not the only ones annoyed by these inconsiderate people.) We told them we had never complained about the music or anything else except the fire pit. We were honest and said that we wouldn’t stop complaining about the fires ever, because they’re against the rules and we hate them, period. Of course they were drunk and talking over each other and getting emotional, and I told them if they really wanted to talk about anything, they should come ring my door bell when they were sober.

Some of them were mad that we had called security without talking to them first. Again, we didn’t call this time, but we have called about the fires before. As I explained to my one sober neighbor, I don’t confront groups of drunk people, let alone drunk Marines and their drunk hyper-aggressive wives. As far as I’m concerned, if there’s someone who’s trained to do that, whose job it is to do that in my neighborhood, I will by all means call that person.

So what to do now? Keep trying to talk to the leasing office or the district manager to get the fire pits contained. Keep having drunk crazy people cussing and complaining on the street because someone else justifiably called security because of their loudness?

I’m not even trying to get philosophical or anything. I’m a Christian, so of course I’ve tried to be considerate of my neighbors too. I get that they want to have a good time. That’s why I think it’s a reasonable compromise to not complain about them making tons of noise all the time, if they’re willing to do that without also burning wood upwind of my unit. It’s just frustrating. I try hard to be civilized. I cuss at home, but not to strangers, and definitely not at them. I definitely don’t use words like “motherfucker” around people I have never met before, or if there are children around. I try to be considerate. I don’t make noise. I’ve asked my next door neighbors if I’ve done anything to annoy them, and they’ve said no. I don’t gossip about anybody, ask anybody for anything, or get obnoxious when I drink (I rarely drink anyway, but still). Why is it so crazy to expect the neighbors to follow the community rules and let me enjoy having my windows open? Would not burning wood on the street really get in the way of them having a good time?

Stuff like this makes me miss Japan. I don’t even understand this. I’ve lived in places where everybody was single, and it’s not really surprising to hear music and parties and things; but I’ve never lived anywhere with neighbors who were this into partying and generally loudly socializing on the street… even though all of these people have families! I thought part of growing up was settling down. Putting the shot glasses and red Solo cups away when you have a couple of kids. Going to sleep before midnight because you and your spouse need to get up and go to work tomorrow. Responsibility. Courtesy. But I’m pretty sure living in the barracks as an airman wasn’t this bad. Living in a berthing with 50+ other people wasn’t this bad. Living in a dorm probably isn’t this bad. I just expected better I guess. And I’m sure these people all think I’m a bitch or something, when really I think I’m pretty laid back and liberal about all that goes on. *shrug*

I guess I’ll just get back to my homework until one of them decides to come ring on my doorbell and talk to me sober.