I remember saying it. So many of us did, in our youth before we knew much about anything, we all knew one thing "I will never marry a military man."
"How do they do it? Those women who marry a military man? Those men who marry a military woman? With the deployments, and the stress of military life, moving around ALL the time? That must be so hard, they must be so strong. I could never do that."
But then, I saw him. My senior year of highschool, looking cool and calm in our first period class. Stoic. Reserved. Distant. And so undeniably awesome. I mean, the guy just permeated coolness. Not because he was the MOST popular, or the MOST attractive, or the MOST athletic, or the MOST ambitious or the MOST sought after, but because he was just enough of ALL of these things. He belonged to no group because he got along in any group. And he had a secret he kept remarkably well hidden, he was a freaking genius. The first time I saw him I knew he would be my friend. My best friend. My eternal friend. And then, he joined the Navy, and so began my journey as a military girlfriend when I was just 18.
He joined the CASH program and blew all the recruiters away with his perfect test scores and physical stamina. The guy could out run, out pushup, out pull-up outlast everyone at the recruiting center so they started putting him in charge of leading the other guys in workouts. His SAT scores were stellar so they recommended he get involved in the nuclear program. Before we knew it, this amazing kid was getting accepted into the Naval Academy. He was incredible. Handsome, talented, driven, ambitious, adventurous, and absolutely in love with me, ME! And that little vow I'd made all those years ago to never get involved with a military man was a distant memory. And has been, ever since Josh Nickerson put on his first uniform.
We dated long distance the four years he was at the Academy. We saw each other a matter of months out of this time. And people would look at me like I was crazy and say "Wow, a long distance relationship is so hard, how do you do it?" But how do I answer a question like that? It's like they were asking "How do you love him, when he's soooooo far away?" To which my only answer could be, how do I NOT love him, where-ever he is? How did I do it though? Well, I just did, yeah sometimes it was a challenge but here's the thing EVERYTHING involves challenge, everything worth while anyway. Is challenge such a bad thing? No, I think it's wonderful! Challenge makes us grow, challenge beckons us to become something greater, it inspires us, motivates us, moves us in ways nothing else could. We become who we are meant to be only when we answer the call of a challenge. And then, comes the pride of success. The day Josh graduated from the Naval Academy and we could finally get married was incredible. Not just because of the long distance chasm our love had crossed, but because of HIS incredible accomplishment, that I had the opportunity of supporting him in! I was SO proud of him!
Fast forward five years of marriage and one preschooler later, and when people find out I'm a submariner wife they respond very much the same way they did when they heard I was in a long distance relationship "Oh wow, how hard, I don't know how you do it! Months without your husband? How late does he work? Oh my gosh, how do you do that?" But in my heart it all translates down to that same strange question, it's as if they are asking me again "How do you love him? With the absences, the moving around and tremendous demands of such a job?" And my mind just reels at the question in absolute amazement you might as well ask me "How do you breathe? Every single second, millions of times over a lifetime, over and over again, HOW do you breathe?" To which I would simply respond, how could I NOT breathe and live to answer that question?
How do I not love this man, and be me? How do I do it? How do I do being a military wife? How do I not? How could I be anything else? This is apart of our life, so I just do it, sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh, sometimes I think I'll go crazy, sometimes I hate it, sometimes (most of the time) I'm grateful for it! It's a wonderful challenge that grows our relationship in ways many people will never experience in their lifetime! It has given Josh tremendous education and experience without debt. It has provided for our family. And it has given us the wonderful blessing of giving something back to this beloved country. To make our own small sacrifices, for the continued blessing and insurance of freedom. I'm proud of who I am during each patrol as I support my husband! And even more so, I am proud of my husband's work. I am proud of my sailor.
It is easy to look around and wonder how people do what they do. It's wonderful to admire the strength in others, it inspires us. I have a beloved friend who inspires me like this, her son suffers from severe epilepsy, and I pray for her and cry for her, and long for the healing of that beautiful little boy of hers and I find myself asking her "How do you do it?" And she says that she just does. Because how could she not do what she does, she loves her son and that loves raises her to whatever challenge his health brings.
There are women who say goodbye to their husbands for an entire year, sending them off to places of the world much more dangerous than being hidden in the middle of an ocean somewhere, and I wonder, how do they do it? But they do it, they do it because love lifts them up to meet the demands of life, when they are without their husband for so long.
I look around and see women so much stronger than me, doing things that I see as so much harder and so much more demanding, and I wonder how they do it, but they do. And I think I know how they do it. They do it the same way I do, one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, because they love the person they are making a sacrifice for, more than the sacrifice itself.
Love carries us through the challenges of life and brings us to a better, stronger, more understanding version of ourselves. And love, is the work of God.
God bless each of us in our own challenges. Whatever path you are on, whatever insurmountable task lays before your feet, may you let the love of God, of those you walk for, and walk with, carry you through the darkest challenge you face and lead you to all you'll become because you got through it. One moment at a time, one step after another, because there is no other way.
How do I do it? I love him.
That, is how I do it.