We have a little more than two years to go before we have to decide whether or not Oliver is reenlisting. For many reasons, this is not going to be an easy decision. At this point, I have no idea what Oliver is going to choose, nor which side of the fence I am standing on. At the center of my struggles with this has been the question of whether or not the military lifestyle is compatible with staying true to what we believe. After having watched more than one friend leave the Navy because they wanted more family time, I have been left wondering that if we choose to stay, we are somehow putting less value on our family than they are.
Serving in the military means the family takes a backseat to duty. We've spent countless birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays apart. Our oldest child entered the world while his daddy was fathoms deep in the Pacific ocean. He didn't meet his son until he was six weeks old, and then deployed again when he was 6 months old for almost four months. These were all things we'd expected in one way or another, but knowing that didn't dampen the grief in any way when they happened. If we stay in, we can expect to experience more of the same. So is reenlisting actually wrong? Would we be disobeying all that gospel doctrine concerning the family if we stay Navy?
Recently, while searching for answers to this question, I discovered a video on the church's "Military Relations" website called "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled". It's aimed at both service members and their families, especially those who have seen combat. In the video, Elder Robert Oaks, who served 35 years on active duty, talked of how noble a cause it is to serve one's country, and of the rightness of defending our families and homes even to bloodshed. He reminded us of the need the military has for "men and women of noble character". Elder Oaks added that these are men and women we have within the LDS church, and that we "cannot always leave the difficult work of defense to someone else."
Those words struck me to the core. Our years in the military have been tough, but we haven't faltered. If anything, we have grown stronger because of them. Oliver missed our first child's birth, but I gained an incredible testimony that when we are at our most helpless, God will walk with us and help us find a way. Our marriage has been strengthened in amazing ways, and we have been forced to learn to communicate in all kinds of circumstances. After dealing with all those times he was on the submarine and I would go weeks without hearing from him, with no way of knowing when he would be able to email, I learned not to hold grudges, but to deal with them right away. There is nothing worse than to have your man deploy with a big argument hanging over your heads. It could be months before you can resolve it, or apologize, so we tend to just work things out as soon as they come, not later.
And then there are our sweet, amazing little boys. They didn't pick this life, so I worry most about them, but they are resilient, and so willing to adapt to what comes our way. Some of my best memories have been made during deployments when the three of us banded together and did what we had to do to get through it. I'm a better mother because I've had to be, and I'm grateful for that. I feel in my heart that if we stay the course, we will be all right, and it would not be a bad choice to make for our family.
It was the next man who spoke that solidified my feelings on this situation. A picture of Mormon came on the screen, and Elder Lance B. Wickman, a former infantryman who served in Vietnam, spoke of how many of the Book of Mormon prophets were also soldiers. I nearly started crying when I heard that. If it's possible for Captain Moroni, Helaman, and so many others to still feel God's love and stay close to Him, then it's possible for us, too. If choosing to serve in the military is analogous to putting your family first, the opposite would have been true. Instead, putting on the uniform to defend your home and family is a way of showing those that depend on you how much you love them.
So, whether Oliver chooses to reenlist or not, I am at peace with this. We have come so far in the last six years, and I know we will be all right if we carry on. It is right and good to defend your nation, and I am proud of all Oliver has done over the years. I would not trade them for anything.
Ana is a restless soul who would love to keep moving around the world the rest of her life. This is probably why she married a submariner in the U.S Navy six years ago. They have two energetic little boys, and currently live in the Bahamas. She blogs about life in paradise at Sunrise in the Water.