HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TADs and Deployments #4

It used to be, during peacetime, overseas deployments happened once every three years or so. My aviator knew he’d be going to Japan for a year. I planned to learn Japanese and accompany him--to live out in town with my little one. Then he informed me what “unaccompanied tour” really meant. He’d be deployed to Okinawa, Japan and I wasn’t allowed to come. A year! A year apart! We’d only been married three years. I had an 18 month old.

He left right after New Years’. Three weeks later I discovered I was pregnant with our second child. I called the overseas operator to tell him.

Operator: “Sergeant Major who? There is no rank Major Sergeant.”

“His last name is Sargent.”

“Sergeant Major who?”

Once the operator and I got the rank/name thing cleared up and he got on the phone, I told him the news.

“Whose is it?” he asked.

Really--three weeks gone and he thought I’d found a sperm donor? I’m not that kind of girl.

The year went slowly. I tried distracting myself. I crewed for friends of ours on their Prindle racing catamaran until I couldn't fit in my wetsuit anymore. I modified our house with plants and makeovers as much as our budget allowed--which wasn't much since we had costs in the US and Japan.

And I was still pregnant running around after a very active firstborn.

It made me mad. Mad at Andy.

Logically I knew he did not choose to go overseas, it was part of his job. I knew it wasn't much fun for him since it was a non-flying billet with the "Running 9th" Marines.

Then the doctor put me on bed rest.

My now two-year-old, strong-willed child made that difficult.

So my mother came to stay with me. Bless her for that.  It couldn’t have been easy to leave her own home and life and take care of a lonely, grumpy preggo and her challenging toddler. We didn't agree on much about child rearing. We didn't agree about much of anything. Yet she came to help me and I tried to be appreciative.

Which led to an escalation in my anger at Andy. Maybe I should have been angry at the Marine Corps or my mother for being an additional stress instead of the supportive help I wished her to be. Nope. I blamed it all on Andy.

An emotional, non-logical reaction.

So many of us have partners far away through no choice of their own. For some it’s orders from the military. Others travel for their work or work so hard they might as well be in Japan. Anger creates larger distances than deployments. My mother and my husband treated me with understanding and love until my own love remembered to be appreciative.


  1. Marcia,

    A great essay about deployment and those of us who've been left behind on the home front!

    Good job.


  2. It never dawned on me until recently with the advent of our first grandchild, how difficult it must have been for my young wife so many years ago.

    Married to this fighter pilot in Philadelphia, we quickly moved away from her family to San Diego. Shortly thereafter our son was born, and I went on an eight-month deployment to WestPac. Our daughter was born 16 months later... while I was TAD to China Lake. I then went on another 8-month cruise, while she tried to manage alone with the two toddlers.

    Really I never had a clue as to how difficult it must have been for her, until now watching our son and his wife with our new grandson. Finally, I am letting my wife know, three decades later.
    john c.

  3. John,

    So old fighter pilots can learn new tricks! My daughter's husband has just begun to travel with a new job (not a military one) and it has helped me understand my own husband's feelings about being away. I just thought he had it great--flying, drinking with the boys, no responsibilities except to the squadron. It never occurred to me he wouldn't enjoy living in a BOQ room or that he missed the small joys of days with his kids and wife.

    Give my best regards to your wing wife.

  4. Thanks. It has been better to learn late, than to have never have learned at all. What used to drive both my wife and I crazy years ago, we now can and do laugh at. Time and perspective can be a wonderful thing.

    john... once the best fighter pilot in the world.