I grew up Navy.
There was a time when I didn’t even realize that other branches of the military existed. I learned to roller skate near the SEAL obstacle course. I learned to swim in the pool where they filmed the closing scene of Top Gun. I didn’t know that regular neighborhoods had sound ordinances that prevented sonic booms and afterburners that shook the china. I’m pretty sure I was a teenager before I realized “BEAT ARMY!” wasn’t a part of the official ending to the National Anthem.
My Daddy wore a green one-piece suit with a zipper to work, smelled like jet fuel, and instead of a briefcase, he carried a round-shaped green bag that concealed a ”Darth Vader Helmet.” Him and his buddies called each other funny names instead of their real names.
And he would leave sometimes.
When he was home, we loved him. When he was gone, we missed him. That was just life.
I remember my mom sitting at the Thanksgiving table by herself saying, ”whatever you do, don’t marry a Naval Aviator.” She said it other times while hugging him in the kitchen. And while I realize there’s some dark Freudian theory that would explain why I felt the need to marry not only a Naval Aviator, but one who flew the same airplane as my father, I’m not sure exploring that would lead to anything healthy. We’ve all seen what happens when I get too analytical, and it probably involves taco engorgement and then violence, in that order.
The deployment separations that I experienced as a Navy wife weren’t much different. I understood. I knew what to expect. I knew we’d probably fight before he left, I knew I would cry and it would hurt. I knew I’d find new independence while he was gone, and feel weird about making new friends without him. I knew I’d hit a wall around month four and rally in month five, and I knew homecoming would be a bigger expectation than reality could provide. Mostly I knew that no matter what, I’d make it.
But this IA thing … now this is different stuff.
If you don’t know, this deceptively small little acronym stands for Individual Augmentation. From my view it’s the Navy taking its turn to help other services that are already maxed out on this terrorific war. Our guys are plucked out like a single gray hair and sent wherever they are needed to plug holes. Not that I would ever know anything about plucking out straggling gray hairs. Nor would I ever infer that Husband is old. Never would I do that. That would be shameful.
So in IA situations, engineers might become supply officers, flight mechanics might get stuck checking tire pressure somewhere, and submariners could conceivably get sent out to do something important on, yep – you guessed it – LAND. To me, it’s sheer unadulterated madness. But apparently, it works. And as you might expect, Husband showed up for his IA duty in his blue Navy uniform, and they gave him a new Army-colored one. And so, the old one came home to me, in a box.
That’s right. I got my husband’s uniform sent home to me in a box:
Is it just me, or is this creepy? This felt like the scene where Maverick delivers Goose’s box of personal belongings to his widow. Well, it didn’t really feel like that because my mailperson is actually a balding fifty-something chubbster who would look ridiculous on a motorcycle and would have substantial trouble getting the aviator glasses over his bifocals. But you get the drift. I opened the box, and I gulped. I imagined the circumstances under which a box like this could be sent to a woman. There was no little note inside reading, “Hey honey, throw this in the garage for me, I won’t need it for a while!” There was no stamp saying “PROPERTY OF US NAVY, please retain for safekeeping.” It was just his uniform. And his boots. In a box.
So okay okay, I know, I realize that logistics do not take into consideration the connotation, denotation, expectation, or symbolization of a simple task like mailing home a uniform. But really, could you just, I dunno, put a big smiley face on the box or something NARMY? Or maybe could you give the guys a stamp that says “Do Not Open Until Husband RETURNS?” Or could you at least send it to his office, NARMY? Because frankly, this freaked me out a little.
I’m willing to move past this small error in judgment, NARMY. I realize you just needed to get that badboy out of the way now that Husband is in the NARMY, and that the U.S. Mail was the best way to do it. But let’s consider something just a little more creative next time, alright? Or maybe a little head’s up – that would be great.
What’s that NARMY? You don’t know what else to do with the uniform in a box? Because right now, I’m thinking about exactly what you can do with your uniform in a box. And I promise it doesn’t involve any tacos whatsoever.