Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Semper Paratus

 My wonderful friend Amy is today's guest blogger.
I'm very lucky to be able to call her a "real life friend."

Let me begin by saying how honored I am to be guest-blogging on my friend Mrs. G.I. Joe’s blog! The fact that she thought of me to step in with a Coast Guard life commentary just made me feel so special and I am really excited to be sharing part of my story with you. I am a proud Coast Guard wife to Jedidiah, who’s been in the guard coming up on five years now. We just celebrated our third wedding anniversary this summer. We have one daughter, Abbey, who will be two this September, and my hobbies/professions include breastfeeding counseling, dance teaching, and sewing/teaching sewing classes. I write about my life and my dedication to responsible, creative, and peaceful parenting (along with other topics) at Toddler In Tow.


I’ve never been much of a “go with the flow” type of girl. Ask anyone who knew me before I married my husband, and they would describe me as the complete antithesis of “go with the flow”. Despite constant efforts to alleviate my insane perfectionism and anxiety, I'd always been incredibly tightly wound and inhibited. My mother and some close friends still approach difficult or surprising subjects with the phrase “Amy, don’t shoot the messenger …” because they don’t want me to have a full fledged panic attack when I hear news I don’t expect or won’t like - and it’s not wrong of them to be concerned. When I was younger, anything out of my rigid idea of how things should be would really impact me. One time, a change sent me into such a blown out panic attack that I landed myself in the hospital, and I remember that time in my life with only fuzzy, scrambled blips of memory. I’ve never, ever, been anything even remotely like a “go with the flow” kind of girl. That is, until I married into the Coast Guard way of life.

As a Coast Guard spouse, I think sometimes that I’ve got it easy. I think that because I have a higher statistical possibility of seeing my husband on a daily basis for a good part of our marriage, I’m somehow a spoiled military wife – that I don’t really know what it means to be married to the military. Even though the love of my life still serves his country unconditionally when duty calls, just like a Marine, an Army soldier, or a sailor in the Navy, I constantly thank God that he’s never been deployed to a war zone, or been separated from Abbey and me for more than six months at a time – a prayer of thanksgiving that most other military wives won’t ever have the chance to pray. Sometimes I feel that I am less of a military wife because I get to see my husband on a regular basis. Even when he is underway on the cutter we’re currently assigned to, he will only be gone for approximately two months at a time, and it’s very likely that he will never see a firefight, so I can rest more easily than many of my sisters when their loves are away serving our country.

This had been my thought process for a good portion of our marriage– until I realized, right around Abbey’s first birthday, that Coast Guard wives don’t actually “have it easy” like I assumed. It merely seems like we might. As Jed prepared to leave for a half-year long training to prepare for his next duty assignment, it hit me: … We wives of Coastguardsmen… it’s easy for us to feel as if we are married to civilian men. When either we’re assigned to a station or our cutter-assigned husbands are in port, they work a lot of days instead of long periods, and stand overnight duty according to a calendar. The schedule is pretty rigid and predictable, and it’s easy to get caught up in the feeling that we’re civilian wives with husbands that come home everyday for dinner – until the unexpected happens, and our husbands are called to service at a time that is not announced, not convenient, and not expected. It’s easy to feel like John or Chris or Ali will always be home for dinner when he’s in port, because that’s how the schedule reads. We plan doctor’s appointments, birthday celebrations, special days for the kids, and even projects we have been trying to find time for- for when our Coast Guard husbands are scheduled to be home. And then one day they don’t come home, called to stay in service instead, and usually completely unannounced to us. Or, they are called to leave home to serve on short notice, without much time for any kind of preparation – practical or emotional.

I realize now that though we are blessed in that our Coastguardsmen aren’t likely to ever be deployed to Iraq or engage in hostile firefights, their sometimes very predictable schedules and ample home time are not set in stone – not at all. We cannot allow the predictability of land station schedules and relative safety of our spouses’ Coast Guard careers to make us complacent. We Coastie Wives must be diligently willing and able to handle unexpected and sometimes very scary change. That is our calling, and our burden in this branch.

“Semper Paratus” takes on a whole new meaning when you think of it in the context of a Coast Guard spouse or Coast Guard children. Since I have been called to serve my country as a flexible, understanding, and supportive wife to my Coastguardsman, I no longer know anxiety as I knew it before. Anxiety can’t rule in the life of a spouse who is called to be “always ready” to embrace unexpected and undesirable changes for the sake of her country. Whether it is a PCS to Puerto Rico, Alaska, Guam, or Maine, or a night when special dinner is ready for a Coastie who doesn’t get to come home because of a SAR case or a maritime safety issue that’s unresolved at quitting time, to “go with the flow” is just something you learn to do as a Coast Guard spouse – whether you were born that way or not.

Sometimes I have to reach deep inside myself to find the strength to go with the flow and be always ready for whatever the Coast Guard will call me to do next – but I’m so blessed to be able to pass that spirit of flexibility on to my daughter, and to anyone else who might be influenced by my ability to face constant change. It’s never easy … but always a necessity in Coast Guard life. And who would have thought that a recovered perfectionist like I would be the one to always wear Semper Paratus proudly and comfortably on her heart!

If you would like another great Coast Guard Family resource this one is one of Amy's favorites.


Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

I love this Amy!

I think (for me at least) its hard to be flexible even when things change so often and drastically for us. But if we had a more established schedule to get used to I know it would be even harder.

And, I think you have the cutest little CG baby ever :)

Anonymous said...

Ya, I thought long and hard about what to write about in relation to being married to a Coastie, and as I thought about all the times I've felt pride in my position as Jed's wife, the moments that really stood out were the ones when I am totally taken aback by how Coast Guard life has changed my outlook on life for the better.

A lot of times people see a military wife and either instantly decide to feel sorry for us or pass some sort of judgement that we feel sorry for ourselves on some level. But that's just not how we roll, is it, girl?! :)

Ashley said...

Great Post! I learned a lot about the Coast Guard from this post. I have always wanted to know more! My mom always joked around that I would make a great military wife because I just go with the flow. Always ready for a new adventure.

Mr. Superman & Mrs. S. said...

Fabulous post!! Thank you so much for sharing :)

JG said...

Thanks for this! I really don't know anything about the Coast Guard (being from a landlocked state) so I really appreciate reading your perspective.

Mrs. Doc Handsome said...

I really enjoyed this post. I learend a lot more about the Coast Guard and I am really glad to know a bit more about it from the wife's perspective.

R said...

Great post :) I understand the feelings of "not-military enough" - especially as I'm not military AT ALL. But my hubs puts his life on the line in his job too, and also has a set schedule that isn't always, it does make it difficult sometimes!

{ J } said...

Thanks for the great depiction of living "Semper Paratus." My husband has been on large cutters, patrol boats, and desk jobs, and at each, he has worked unpredictable and *long* hours. Very rarely are we able to plan more than a week in advance. It's easy to fall into the mindset of feeling like we aren't true military wives (though my husband was deployed to the Gulf for six months at the start of the war, so I got a taste of how others live). But our families make plenty of sacrifices while Coasties put themselves in harm's way every day. "I shall sell life dearly to an enemy of my country, but give it freely to rescue those in peril" and "You Have To Go Out, You Don’t Have To Come Back" are true...they make me proud to be part of the Coast Guard Family.

Amanda said...

Great post Amy. As I was reading it, you put on paper a lot of the same feelings I have as the wife of the National Guard. Aside from the monthly drills and yearly ATs, there are also the training sessions, which, I found out, sometimes only give you 1 - 2 days notice before he is gone for weeks. I honestly don't know much about the Coast Guard branch, but you gave some great insight into it.

Stephanie Hartman said...

What a GREAT post Amy unexspected change is always hard. I am the kind of girl who carrys a planner around with me everywhere its like my cell phone and car keys to me but when my hubby joined the Army it has fallen back in my purse with my chapstick and camera because I never know what to exspect and I can never plan anything because our plans are always changing.

Thank you for giving a little bit of perspective from a Coast Guards wifes point of view no matter how you feel you are part of the Military and just like my husband when duty calls he goes you husband is the same way and thats what makes wives from all braches come together because we all know what each other has to go through.

Great post girlie.

The Ayers Adventures said...

I love this because I am a Coast Guard fiance (should be wife but due to the unpredictable nature our wedding was cancelled) and its so hard finding others out there. At times I do feel like I am not like the others because I grew up with my dad in the Air Force and got used to him coming and going a lot more than I have ever seen J leave. After boot camp when he went to Puerto Rico I thought I might possibly go crazy but I've learned so much about the different jobs available to him. Now I'm excited and ready for all of our adventures that we will get to experience together! Thanks so much for the post and I can't wait to read more on your blog!