It’s been a little over six months since my first conversation with Ben about the prospect of him joining the U.S. Navy. We were on our way home from a wedding late in the evening of July 4th, driving beneath a seemingly continuous glimmer of fireworks. The circumstances, and the conversation, are etched in my memory; looking back, the setting seems fitting – patriotic – perhaps a bit fortuitous. Once simply a prospect, this idea has come to be a reality. Ben has been accepted into the Navy Aviation program and is making the moves necessary to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, Ben will be expected in Newport, Rhode Island for a 3-month stint in Officer Candidate School. OCS includes a blend of physical training and other coursework, which will be supplemented by 6 weeks of training specific to the aviation program in Pensacola, Florida. If you’re wondering what this looks like, watch An Officer and a Gentleman and Top Gun – that’s what Ben told me to do. An Officer and a Gentleman left me HATING the idea of Ben pursuing this (adultery, suicide, broken relationships and detrimental addictions – what’s to love?), but Top Gun has long been one of my favorite movies and provides a slightly more glamorous, optimistic view (and also affirms Ben’s claim that he will “need” a motorcycle and corvette once he gets his wings). That’s right. My life (and Ben’s) could become a movie. I think I’d like Reese Witherspoon or Jennifer Garner to play my part.
We’ve spent these past several months talking, preparing, adjusting, and waiting for this change. Although I know it will be extremely difficult to see him off, I think we’re both ready to finally move forward. Over dinner last night, we talked about our plans leading up until the beginning of OCS. In these next few weeks, we’ll be making the rounds to family and friends, enjoying the company of those who have supported us throughout this process. The solidification of these plans proves to me that it’s finally happening – and it’s happening quickly.
I find myself torn between feeling the need to stay strong and wanting to wallow in self-pity and sadness. It’s getting harder to not spontaneously burst into tears as I talk about him leaving or see sappy commercials about military families on TV. I know that I will survive the time apart, and I remind myself that thousands of families have gone before me and have been made stronger through similar circumstances. Ben has encouraged me to make the most of the time while he is gone – to keep busy with my girlfriends and enjoy all that I love about Pittsburgh while I am here. We’re savoring the time we have together before he goes, and trusting that this decision is the best for our future. It’s already proved to be quite the adventure – and I know there will be plenty more along the way.
Through all of this, I’ve been learning about sacrifice, patience and love in new and wonderful ways. I’m so proud of Ben – of who he is, his sense of purpose and duty, his willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others. It’s been a hard, but beautiful, journey. I need to start practicing my salute and saying, “Yes sir!”. I’m going to have my very own man in uniform. Let’s hope his ability to make a bed with perfectly tight corners continues after boot camp…